MPs per sq km

 One person one vote is a core principle of democracy and from that comes the requirement for electorates to have a similar population.

The quotas for current boundaries  are:

North Island general electorates: 57,243 +/- 2,862

South Island general electorates: 57,562 +/- 2,878

Maori electorates:                             59,583 +/1 2,979

The result of this is a huge variation in the area a MP represents – from Rodney Hide in Epsom who covers just 23 square kilometres to Bill English in Clutha Southland, the largest general electorate which is 38,247 square kilometres in area and Rahui Katene in Te Tai Tonga which covers 161,443 sqaure kilometres.

MMP adds to the dispropotion of MPs per square kilometre because list MPs serve parties not electorates and most of them are in the North Island and in cities.

MMP encourages parties to work where the votes are and there are more votes in the North Island and cities than in the provinces and South Island. The result is that the provincial and southern voices aren’t being heard so strongly and that has been exagerated by the bluewash of the provinces in last month’s election because there are very few opposition MPs outside the four main cities.

I’m not suggesting a change to one person, one vote. But when considering if MMP if is retained or not some thought needs to be given to how big electorates can be to ensure MPs are reasonably accessible to their constituents and that they can effecitvely cover the area they are supposed to serve.

A small concession to the difficulty of servicing the larger electorates has been made in the agreement between National and the Maori Party which gives all Maori MPs and those in general electorates  larger than 20,000 square kilometres an extra staff member.

However, they don’t get any extra funds for associated costs and while Pita Sharples in Tamaki Makaurau which is 730 square kilometres in area gets an extra member of staff, 23 general electorates which are bigger than that but smaller than 20,000 don’t.

Similarly Nania Mahuta in Hauraki Waikato which covers 12,580 square kilometres gets an extra staff member but Shane Adern in Taranaki King Country (12,869 sq kms) and Anne Tolley in East Coast (13,649) don’t.

The table below (from the parliamentary library) shows the areas electorates cover, colour coded for the party of the MP representing them.

Name

Area sq.km

Te Tai Tonga

161,443

Clutha-Southland

38,247

West Coast-Tasman

38,042

Te Tai Hauauru

35,825

Waitaki

34,888

Ikaroa-Rawhiti

30,952

Kaikoura

23,706

Waiariki

19,212

Te Tai Tokerau

16,370

East Coast

13,649

Taranaki-King Country

12,869

Hauraki-Waikato

12,580

Northland

12,255

Rangitikei

12,189

Wairarapa

11,922

Taupo

9,101

Selwyn

7,854

Napier

6,866

Rangitata

6,826

Whanganui

5,948

Invercargill

5,617

Rotorua

5,535

Waikato

4,947

Coromandel

4,653

Tukituki

4,277

Dunedin South

2,702

Waimakariri

1,757

Otaki

1,728

Whangarei

1,628

Hunua

1,266

Bay of Plenty

1,188

Rodney

1,051

Helensville

865

Tamaki Makaurau

730

Dunedin North

642

New Plymouth

579

Nelson

565

Rimutaka

518

Auckland Central

499

Mana

321

Hutt South

311

Papakura

255

Waitakere

254

Mangere

155

Hamilton West

148

Wellington Central

146

Ohariu

130

Port Hills

115

New Lynn

97

Tauranga

89

Christchurch East

78

Palmerston North

46

Wigram

40

East Coast Bays

37

Hamilton East

37

Manurewa

37

Maungakiekie

37

Botany

36

Tamaki

36

Mt Albert

34

Manukau East

31

Pakuranga

29

Christchurch Central

28

Ilam

27

Northcote

27

Rongotai

27

Te Atatu

27

North Shore

25

Mt Roskill

24

Epsom

23

 

10 Responses to MPs per sq km

  1. Cactus Kate says:

    More rural diddums.

    If the MP’s with large geographical electorates represented sheep, cows and trees then I could understand the dilemma, but miles of no one does not equal a need for more representation.

    They should be thankful they have large areas to cover, makes the trips more scenic to see the countryside that rural folk love. Hell, they get free airtravel don’t they and Air NZ covers most little places quite nicely?

    Like

  2. homepaddock says:

    CK – I’m not suggesting more representation per person, I’m just pointing out there is a limit to an area which it’s possible to service effectively and that MMP gives fewer MPs per rural person and they’re spread over more kilometres than urban ones.

    If you take the Waitaki as an example Air NZ services little places like Oamaru and Wanaka but none of the wee places like Makarora, Alexandra, Ranfurly, Roxburgh, Palmerston, Twizel, Fairlie, Geraldine . . . in the 34, 888 square kilometres in between so the only way to get to them is to drive.

    It makes me wonder why people think the Maori seats are a good idea because an electorate of 161, 443 sq kms can’t possibly get the attention MPs in smaller ones give theirs.

    Like

  3. Colin Lucas says:

    HP I understand your point.
    Much as I like driving, a trip from Geraldine to Roxburgh with a side trip up to Makarora thrown in for good measure would do my head in. It’s long, and in shitty weather the Lindis and the Old Man Range are not fun, and the road to Makarora is difficult at the best of times. The only plus that I can think of is that the roads are tolerably empty and I have the odd relative i can call on to bludge cups of tea beds etc.
    Just becasue an electorate is thinly populated doesn’t mean that it’s constituents should be disenfranchised by an inablity to access their member of parliament. appropriate allowances should be made.

    Like

  4. As a side issue, we don’t have ‘one person, one vote’. The numbers you quoted include those under 18 who cannot vote. What we actually have is a system where your vote counts more if you are in an electorate where people have more children.

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  5. Cactus Kate says:

    It would depend entirely on the ability and commitment of the MP of course Home Paddock.

    I imagine the people of Akl Central would feel more disenfranchised about Judith Tizard’s ability to service a 499 sq km electorate than the people of Tamaki Makaurau and Pita Sharples – whom every time I fly to NZ I seem to spot in the Koru lounge travelling somewhere stuffing his face with the morning buffet.

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  6. homepaddock says:

    Ck – ability and commitment vary but you could get by with less of both in smaller electorates than big ones.

    In a small electorate an MP could hold a clinic and attend a couple of functions on a Saturday morning while a colleague in a big might take the same three hours to get to the first appointment.

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  7. Cactus Kate says:

    It’s lucky then that technology can account for most issues a consituent may have isn’t it?

    In my experience most constituents now whinge at their MP over an email or through the fax machine in the first instance and these issues can usually be solved by the electorate staff picking up a phone without even bothering an MP.

    The MP is then left to deal with tougher issues where s/he may have to pull their rank with third parties anyway to get an outcome, but again its like servicing clients in business, most of your work can be done at a desk with modern technology.

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  8. homepaddock says:

    CK – technology helps (Bill English has Skype set up in his electorate offices so constituents can speak to him when he’s in Wellington) but people still expect to see /hear an MP at meetings, shows, fairs, openings, closings . . .

    Like

  9. Sally says:

    The debate should now move onto reducing the excessive number of politicians in NZ. With the global financial crisis we are ALL going to have to make changes, our parliamentary system must not be excluded.

    Like

  10. Lundegaard says:

    At least they’re not the MP for the Australian electorate Kalgoorlie. That covers 2.3 million square km. Lingiari covers 1.3 million square km.

    Not that it has much to do with this…

    Like

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