Submissions about to open on future make-up of council

Published on 25 June 2024

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Public submissions are about to open on the future make-up of Whanganui District Council – it is proposed to retain 12 councillors and to keep the Whanganui Rural Community Board.

After considering a report from the council’s representation review working party, councillors decided at a meeting on Tuesday, 25 June 2024 to have ten general ward councillors and two Māori ward councillors for the 2025 and 2028 local body elections.

This means that residents who are enrolled on the general electoral roll can elect ten general electoral ward councillors, and residents enrolled on the Māori electoral roll can elect two Māori electoral ward councillors – 12 councillors in total. All councillors would have full voting rights.

The mayor would continue to be elected by all Whanganui District voters and it would be status quo for the community board, with seven board members representing three rural subdivisions.

Submissions on this initial proposal, which is part of a representation review, open on Tuesday, 2 July.  

Whanganui Mayor Andrew Tripe is encouraging the community to submit on the proposal.

“This is an extremely important consultation as the outcome will affect how the council will represent its community for the next two local body elections, in 2025 and 2028.

“We want to ensure that we have chosen an option that is appropriate for our district and to be certain that all our communities of interest are represented effectively,” Mayor Andrew says.

The representation review working party, comprising Deputy Mayor Helen Craig, several elected members and relevant council officers, evaluated possible representation arrangements and presented three options to the meeting. This followed preliminary community engagement between February and April this year, including a district-wide community survey, a short survey targeting the district’s rural community, a Facebook live event hosted by two councillors and a Community Kōrero information session.

The working party’s preferred option based on public feedback – to reduce the number of councillors from 12 to 10 (eight general ward councillors and two Maori ward councillors) – was not adopted.

Another option in the report would have seen a reduction in the total number of councillors to 10, split between six councillors in an urban ward, two councillors from a rural ward and two councillors in a district-wide Māori ward – in this option there would be no rural community board.

The total amount of remuneration paid to councillors would not reduce if there were fewer councillors.  Councillors’ remuneration is based on a fixed pool of funds set independently by a government agency, the Remuneration Authority and does not increase or decrease in relation to the number – the total is divided between the number of elected members. Community boards are funded by a targeted rate.

Legislation requires local councils to review representation arrangements at least once every six years to ensure fair and effective community representation. Whanganui District Council last reviewed its representation settings in 2018, with a review required before the next local body elections in October 2025.

Once public submissions have been considered, the council is expected to formally adopt its final representation arrangement at a meeting in September. Following an appeal period, Te Mana Kāwanatanga ā Rohe Local Government Commission will make the final decision on the district’s future representation.

Submissions will close on Sunday, 4 August 2024.

More information will be available on the Have Your Say page on the council website from Tuesday, 2 July.

Māori wards

In October 2023, Whanganui District Council formally decided to establish Māori wards, effective for the 2025 and 2028 local body elections.

Since that decision, the Coalition Government announced that councils must either conduct a binding referendum during the 2025 local elections if they created Māori wards without a poll, or reverse their decision to establish a Māori ward.

Legislation to that effect – the Local Government (Electoral Legislation and Māori Wards and Māori Constituencies) Amendment Bill – was introduced to Parliament on 20 May 2024.

The council is not able to make any decisions under these provisions until the bill is enacted, which is likely to be later next month. The representation review report presented at the council’s 25 June meeting is working on the basis that the council will retain its Māori wards.

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