Members of the Northland Regional Council are suggesting a new, more community-focused way to represent Northlanders after completing the mandatory six-yearly representation review, but one member says the bigger issue is ensuring quality candidates and good governance.
The proposed changes would see eight smaller constituencies replace the current model based on the boundaries of the three districts - Whangarei, Far North and Kaipara. The period for public submissions opened on September 1 and runs for a month.
As part of the proposed revamp, the number of regional councillors would increase by one to nine. The cost would be covered within the councillors' existing $388,840 salary pool (nine councillors would share the same money currently paid to eight). Seven of the eight constituencies would be represented by a single councillor, but the Whangarei urban constituency would have two. Each councillor would represent between 15,800 and 19,300 people.
NRC chair Craig Brown said current representation arrangements had been in place for over 20 years. "They're outdated, ineffective and due for an overhaul. After lengthy discussions over six months we've come to the conclusion that it's time to move to a more equitable structure that better reflects the diversity of the region."
Councillor Ian Walker said he agreed Northland's communities were very different, but said the council had to be sure that creating smaller constituencies did not mean reducing quality of governance. "You need the best governance you can get," he said.
Councillor Tony Davies-Colley said the issues were interwoven. "These changes are about both equality of representation and good governance."
Submissions will be heard from October 17-19; the council will discuss them on October 30; the final proposal will be adopted in November; and the objection/appeal period is from November 10 for a month.