The Representation Commission has received 332 objections to the proposed electorate boundaries and names for the next two general elections.
450 people contributed to the objections through individual and form submissions and one petition. The submissions can be viewed online at www.vote.nz.
“The proposed electorates that we’ve received the most objections about are around Auckland and in Otago and Southland,” says Representation Commission chair, Judge Craig Thompson.
“Some of the objections are about keeping communities together,” says Judge Thompson. “Other objections are about the names of some electorates and we’ve received suggestions for names that people feel better reflect those areas.” . .
There’s always been difficulty keeping communities of interest in the same electorate and that worsened with MMP which made electorates bigger.
I’m in Waitaki, the third largest general electorate. It covers parts of Central Otago, MacKenzie, Queenstown Lakes, Timaru and Waitaki District councils.
It includes towns as disparate as Oamaru and Wanaka, Ranfurly and Tekapo, and Maheno and Makarora.
Neighboring Clutha Southland is bigger still and even city-based electorates like Dunedin North and Dunedin South stretch into the hinterland to cover diverse communities with little if anything in common.
The starting points for boundary changes is the set number of seats for the South Island – 16. That puts around 65,000 people in each electorate plus or minus the 5% tolerance.
Adding at least one more seat to the South Island would lower the number of people in each electorate and its area and make it a bit easier to maintain communities of interest.
This wouldn’t be popular, but the population in each electorate is more than double what it was 50 years ago.
We didn’t have List MPs back then, but while some do base themselves in electorates and do a lot of constituency work, not all do and not all electorates get this extra representation.
No-one is suggesting we double the number of electorates but the larger population, large area too many electorates cover and difficulty in keeping communities of interest together is a reason to have a few more than we have now.
When MMP was introduced we had 65 electorates (60 general and five Maori) and 55 list MPs.
The increased population has resulted in five more general seats and two extra Maori ones with a corresponding reduction of seven List places.
Increasing the number of List MPs would be even less popular than adding a few more electorate ones but failure to address the issue of more and more people per MP is making it harder to have cohesive electorates and harder for MPs to represent them effectively.