National is considering offering a two stage referendum on MMP. I would prefer a Royal Commission which considers not only our voting system but electoral finance and other constitutional matters as well.
However, if there is a referendum I’ll be voting against MMP, as I did originally and for the same reasons – it gives too much power to parties, and poorer representation for individuals especially those of us in the country.
If you judge MMP by the increase in women MPs and a more varied ethnic mix it has succeeded in making parliament more representative. But that has come at the cost of reduced representation for rural people.
The addition of list MPs increased the size of parliament. Most of those extra MPs are urban and more likely to use the few occasion they visit the provinces for media opportunities to spread the party word than to serve the people. The extra list MPs also resulted in fewer electorates and that reduction in number led to an increase in their size.
Under the new boundaries the Clutha Southland Electorate is 38,247 square kilometres; West-Coast Tasman is 38,042 square km and Waitaki is 34,888. The largest North Island Electorate is Taranaki King Country at 12, 869 square kilometres. The smallest is Epsom at just 23 square kilomeres.
Clutha Southland and Waitaki together cover the same area as 33 electorates from Northland down to Otaki plus part of Rangitikei. No matter how good MPs are or which party they represent, it is physically impossible for them to give the level of service to their constituents over that area as city MPs can. And if it’s bad in general electorates, it’s much worse in Maori ones: Te Tai Tonga is 161,443 square kilometres – covering Stweart Island, all the South Island and part of greater Wellington.
The number of South Island electorates is set at 16 so after every election the South’s population is divided by 16 to get the number of people in each electorate. This time it is 54,296 plus of minus 5% or 2,714. There could be an improvement by allowing a 10% over or under because another two or three thousand people wouldn’t make much difference to the area of a city electorate but it would in a rural one.
When it’s the list vote that counts it wouldn’t affect the proportionality of parliament. But something MMP proponents haven’t considered is that carrying on with the present system unchanged will because the North Island population grows so much faster than the South, each time the boundaries change there are another couple of general seats added in Auckland which is two fewer list seats.
So even if a referendum favours MMP something will have to change before the proportionality gets any more out of kilter.