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SWDC ward changes on hold

South Wairarapa councillors chose to keep the electoral status quo for the district’s 2022 elections. PHOTO /MARCUS ANSELM

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South Wairarapa’s political landscape will likely stay as it is until the 2025 local council elections.​​

South Wairarapa councillors voted against proposing changes to the district’s electoral structure until the next triennium.​​

This means the possibility of a Maori ward, boundary changes, and a change in voting systems will have to wait for another election cycle.​​

The council currently has three wards, based on its main towns of Featherston, Greytown, and Martinborugh.​

Changes to wards and voting systems would need to be approved by the electorate, and that consultation would need to be changed well ahead of the next election.​​

Councillor Leigh Hay was involved in the 2018 representation review, as Greytown Community Board chair.​​

She said the changes required spending not in the council’s budget for the year.​​

​“Post-lockdown, we’re trying to save every penny we can, and suddenly a potential of $60,000, which is unbudgeted for [comes along].”​​

​At its October 2018 meeting, the council looked into a review of its current systems.

Discussions on a Maori ward for the district were held, and further information was requested.​​

Under the terms of the previous resolution, a decision was needed by November this year.​​

​Narida Hooper, the interim chair of the SWDC Maori Standing Committee, said committee members had not had the opportunity to discuss electoral matters yet.​​

“This should have been put in front of the committee a while ago, because we don’t actually have these conversations.​

“Stuff that affects us as a people, but happens automatically at council, in processes, if we don’t get it flagged, then we can’t ask questions, we can’t get schooled on it, and we need to understand it.​

“We have to set platforms, it’s not just for us, but for future generations.”​​

A prospective Maori ward would not end the standing committee, SWDC’s policy manager Karen Yates said. ​​

Should a seat for tangata whenua be created, Yates said the committee would still have an important role. ​​

The standing committee has representatives from marae and iwi in the district.​​

In its first meeting back at its council chambers after lockdown, councillors voted to maintain the district’s current first-past-the-post voting methods.​​

It has been used since the district formed in 1989.

Councils must conduct a review at least every six years.​

Masterton and Carterton’s next electoral reviews are not due until the 2022-2025 triennium.​​


Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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