By Matthew.Martin@dailypost.co.nz Saturday, 14 November 2015
A last-minute attempt by a group of councillors to have the Rotorua Lakes Council’s election arrangements changed to suit a Federated Farmers submission has fallen flat when they were out-voted.
After robust debate regarding the council’s Your Choice 2016 Election Review, councillors on Thursday night voted 8-5 to go ahead with recommended changes for the next two local government elections.
The changes will see councillor numbers reduced from 12 to 10 and the establishment of a second community board to represent the rural sector.
The council also agreed to retain the current “at large” voting system where voters can cast votes for all councillor positions, rather than return to a ward system where people vote for ward councillors only.
The existing Lakes Community Board was also retained for the next two elections.
The changes are set to come into effect for the next local government election in October 2016 and for the following election in 2019, but the public can appeal against the decision from next week.
During the debate councillors Peter Bentley, Mike McVicker, Rob Kent, Glenys Searancke and Mark Gould put forward an argument in favour of a Federated Farmers model that proposed a mixed ward and at-large voting system that also recommended introducing a rural ward.
Mr McVicker said he did not support dropping to 10 councillors either.
“And I got a clear message from Federated Farmers that the rural community they represent does not want a community board. They indicated they wanted a representative around the council table. ”
Mr Kent said he had serious misgivings about the changes.
“Firstly about the reductions in councillors … for exactly the same reason they have 12 on a jury, so we get a mix of opinion, a mix of ideas and a mix of skills to come up with the best result for the district. I’m also in favour of the rural community having a greater voice … as I think this council does not listen to the community nearly enough as it should,” he said.
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said he was happy with the mix of councillors and community boards but said Federated Farmers did not represent the entire rural community.
Rotorua/Taupo Federated Farmers committee member Neil Heather, who was at the meeting, said he was a “little bit disappointed” by the decision.
“I don’t think the councillors understand what the rural viewpoint is … especially the farming side of things.
“I will need to speak to the rest of the team but my thoughts are we will appeal it, we thought we had a really good case for something different.
“I was annoyed by some of the comments made that were fundamentally wrong. We have always wanted to retain some sort of ward system and to say that we did not engage with them at the start of the process, which we did, was just not on.”
Councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who was chairwoman of the council’s Your Choice Working Party, said she was happy with the decision.
“It’s a fair reflection of what the working party heard when we went out and talked to people right across the district and across all sectors of the community; and it’s reflective of the submissions the council received.
“It gives people the opportunity to vote for all of their councillors while ensuring that the special interests our rural and lakes communities can be heard on council.”And with two well-functioning community boards contributing to the governance and decision-making of the council, a reduction in councillor numbers to 10 is appropriate.”
– Number of councillors reduced from 12 to 10
– Introduction of a rural community board
– Retention of the Lakes Community Board
– Will apply to the 2016 and 2019 elections
– Appeal process begins November 19, goes for one month
– Final decision by Local Government Commission expected by April 10
– Mayor Steve Chadwick
– Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson
– Karen Hunt
– Janet Wepa
– Charles Sturt
– Merepeka Raukawa-Tait
– Trevor Maxwell
– Tania Tapsell
– Mike McVicker
– Peter Bentley
– Rob Kent
– Glenys Searancke
– Mark Gould
Download the submission report below