Support for new council system

The Local Government Commission ''substantially supported'' the new representational structure for the Southland District Council, which the council itself proposed, chief executive Dave Adamson said this week.

The new system - the biggest structural change in the organisation's 23-year history - will mean the same number of councillors elected, but from fewer wards. Instead of representing one ward each, 12 councillors will be elected across five wards. There will also be eight community boards and 19 community development area subcommittees (CDAs).

The council's geographic area is large, stretching from Milford Sound in the north to Stewart Island in the south and across rural Southland.

When the new structure was proposed last year, the council said fewer wards were necessary because, under the Local Electorate Act 2001, councillors were supposed to represent the same number of constituents, plus or minus 10%, and the council could not achieve that with 12 wards. Six individuals or groups appealed the proposal. A three-person panel from the Local Government Commission heard submissions in Invercargill last month.

''In making the decision, the commissioners said the model is `out of the models considered, the one that best provides for effective representation of communities of interest while also meeting other requirements of the Act','' Mr Adamson said said.

The commission made two small changes to the proposal, he said. One was that community boards should include one member appointed by the council and the other was that the Stewart Island Community Board should include Rakiura in its name.

The new structure will be in place for the local body elections in October.

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