Alex Braae says it won’t be popular but we need more MPs.
He’s right on both counts.
When MMP was introduced the South Island was given a maximum of 16 electorates. The island’s population was divided by that to set the number of people in each seat by that amount, plus or minus 5%.
Whether that was too many people is arguable but there is no doubt too many of the provincial and Maori electorates were far too big geographically.
The biggest, Clutha Southland, covered an areas of 37, 378 square kilometres. Contrast that with the smallest, Epsom, which covers just 20 square kilometres.
Clutha Southland got a little bit smaller when Queenstown was put into it put it. It was renamed Southland and lost a wee bit more in area when electorate boundaries were redrawn after the last census. But it, its neighbour Waitaki, that electorate’s neighbour West Coast Tasman, and Kaikoura to the east are still far bigger than is fair to the MP trying to service it and their constituents. So are the bigger North Island and Maori electorates.
It’s now not only the area that is covered by these electorates that is the problem. The population has grown by more than a million people since MMP meaning every electorate MP has to service considerably more constituents.
Then there’s the problem of less proportionality.
The increase in the number of electorates as the North Island grew faster than the South has led to fewer list seats.
Unless there is a change, census by census, the number of electorates will increase and the number of list seats decrease, until there are no list MPs at all.
The answer to that is not fewer electorates.
Some already cover too big an area and all have a lot more people than when the formula was devised before the 1996 election.
The only alternative is more MPs – both electorate and list.
Braae is right that won’t be popular with the people, possibly a majority, who think we already have too many politicians.
It would almost certainly fail if put to a referendum.
The government has the votes to pass any changes by itself but a constitutional reform like this shouldn’t go through that way,
It would be much better to be agreed by a super majority in parliament and if the issue was handled carefully in a non-partisan way it could be.