Potential changes to the way Northlanders are represented around the Northland Regional Council table are a step closer after a visit from the Local Government Commission.
As part of a six-yearly ‘representation review’ required under the Local Electoral Act 2001, regional councillors are proposing abandoning what they see as an ‘outdated’ current model governing how they’re elected and who they represent.
After considering submissions made during a month long public submission period, councillors in late October last year agreed to a number of proposed changes, including dropping the existing model (based on the region’s three district council boundaries) and replacing it with seven, smaller constituencies.
As part of the proposed revamp, the number of regional councillors would also increase by one to nine – but the cost of that extra councillor would be covered within councillors’ existing $388,840 salary pool. (Nine councillors to share the same money currently paid to eight.)
Council Chairman Craig Brown says several submitters had subsequently lodged appeals against various aspects of the council’s decision and the Commission had travelled to Whangarei today to hear from both the regional council and those opposed to the changes.
Mr Brown says the three-member Commission will now consider the various matters raised and is expected to issue its decision by early April.
He says it’s important to bear in mind the representation review is an entirely separate legal process from – and not related to – the Far North District Council’s proposal to become a unitary authority, which the Commission is also investigating.
“Our representation review is not concerned with what form the various arms of local government in Northland should take; it’s about the way our councillors are elected to the regional council. It’s designed to strengthen the representation Northlanders get at the council table and aims to empower communities to both better serve their own needs and aspirations and contribute to regional decision-making.”
Mr Brown says once the Commission releases its decision, it will be posted on the council’s website via: www.nrc.govt.nz
The Commission’s decision will take effect for this year’s October local government elections.