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Tauranga residents to consider how their future councillors are elected

Tauranga residents are being asked how they want their city’s future councillors to be elected. 

Mount Maunganui. Source: istock.com

Under the Local Electoral Act, councils must review how they represent their residents at least every six years. 

With the whole of the Tauranga City Council currently made up of appointed commissioners after the Government signalled it had little confidence in what was a dysfunctional council, chair Anne Tolley said it was the right time for a review. 

“We need to ensure we’re prepared for the next local election with a model that provides fair and effective representation for all individuals and communities,” she said. 

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An online survey is running until August 13. It asks residents about four options for electing representatives. It also asks them about ward boundaries, the number of councillors they want to elect, and if they want to establish community boards. 

Commissioners will then consider the feedback and develop a formal proposal, which will then be open for public submission. 

The commissioners’ terms started in February and will end next year after local body elections on October 8. 

Tauranga City Council has elected its representatives in the same way since 2010.

Option 1 – People elect seven councillors from three general wards, one Māori ward councillor, and two councillors at large

Tauranga City Council said the advantages of this model include geographic representation and a potential for more diversity of "at large" councillors, who can be from any area, to be elected.

However, it noted that the model would mean not all councillors represent the same number of electors and it could be confusing for voters. It also said the mixed model arrangement, similar to the one currently in place, may have "contributed to the previous council’s challenges".

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Option 2 – People elect nine councillors from one general ward and one Māori ward councillor

Tauranga City Council said the model "recognises shared common community of interest at city level for general electors". There's also a potential for candidates to represent interest groups spread city-wide.

However, Tauranga City Council said the model could be seen as "inequitable" because general voters would elect up to nine councillors and Māori voters would elect only one councillor. There's also a lack of guarantee of geographically-based representation.

Option 3 – People elect 11 councillors from six general wards and one Māori ward councillor

The council said the model would be advantageous for geographic representation across the whole city. It said the model "may address the previous council’s challenges". It said the additional two councillors could also increase representation of communities of interest.

However, the council said the lack of general ward councillors could mean the model wouldn't represent city-wide communities of interest. Tauranga City Council said another disadvantage was that electors are only able to vote for a minority of councillors, and Māori electors would elect only 1 councillor out of 10.

"[A] larger number of councillors can be seen as creating more potential for disharmony and conflict," it noted. 

Option 4 – People elect 11 councillors from 11 general wards and one Māori ward councillor

Tauranga City Council said this model would be more "equitable" for both general and Māori voters because they would all be able to vote for one councillor. It said the option would also guarantee more geographic representation of communities of interest than other options.

However, the council noted that the option could lead to a perception ward councillors only represent their area. It also said the model would lead to "less potential for electing a more diverse group of councillors than other options". 

Full details of the proposal can be found on the Tauranga City Council website.