Need more electorates

January 10, 2020

More than 300 objections have been lodged to the proposed electoral boundary and name changes:

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.

 


Too few seats in South Island

November 21, 2019

The Boundaries Commission has announced proposed changes to electorate boundaries:

Where possible the current boundaries have been retained to minimise the number of people affected by electorate boundary and name changes. Of the 71 existing electorates, 36 are unchanged. The adjustments in other electorates reflect changes in population since 2014 when the boundaries were last reviewed,” says Representation Commission chair Judge Craig Thompson.

The biggest areas of change are in the Auckland region, Christchurch, and Otago and Southland. . .

North Island general electorates

  • Rodney is redrawn to include Dairy Flat and Coatesville, and renamed Whangaparāoa
  • Helensville is extended into Northland, Rodney (now Whangaparāoa) and Upper Harbour, and loses the Waitakere Ranges to New Lynn
  • The addition of population to New Lynn from the north means changes are also required to Mt Roskill, Maungakiekie, Manukau East, and Manurewa
  • Flat Bush is created by drawing population from the existing electorates of Hunua, Manurewa and Papakuraand includes Wattle Downs and Takanini
  • Population from Waikato is added to Hunua which is renamed Port Waikato. Adjustments are also made to the boundaries of Waikato with Coromandel, Hamilton West and Taupō
  • Adjustments are also made to the boundaries of Whangarei and Bay of Plenty

South Island general electorates

  • Brightwater is moved from Nelson to West Coast-Tasman
  • Selwyn is redrawn and no longer includes Banks Peninsula. Adjustments are also made to Ilam, Wigram, Port Hills (renamed Banks Peninsula), Christchurch East and Rangitata
  • Clutha-Southland gains the Alexandra and Clyde area from Waitaki
  • Otago Peninsula is moved from Dunedin South to Dunedin North, and South Otago is added to Dunedin South from Clutha-Southland
  • Winton and The Catlins are added to Invercargill from Clutha-Southland.

Few if any of these changes are unexpected.

In the south, Dunedin South might be regarded as a little more marginal, Invercargill will probably be a bit bluer and Dunedin North will still be red.

Clutha Southland and Waitaki will cover a little less area, still be larger than some countries, and still be blue.

Banks Peninsula will be a bit bluer than the Port Hills one it replaces.

Māori electorates

  • Tāmaki Makaurau gains an area around Te Atatū South from Te Tai Tokerau and an area in East Manurewa from Hauraki Waikato
  • A minor adjustment between Ikaroa-Rāwhiti and Te Tai Tonga is made in Naenae.

Names of electorates

Four electorate name changes are proposed: Rodney to Whangaparāoa, Hunua to Port Waikato, Rimutaka to Remutaka and Port Hills to Banks Peninsula.

The proposals create one new general electorate bringing the total number of electorates to 72: 16 general seats in the South Island, 49 in the North and seven Maori seats.

That will mean one less list seat – 48, down 12 from the 60 when MMP was introduced.

The number of seats in parliament is set at 120 (unless there’s an overhang) and the number of South Island seats is set at 16.

After every census the South’s population is divided by 16 to set the number of people per seat plus or minus 10%. The North’s population is growing faster than the South’s which is why it keeps getting an extra seat. That is likely to continue and it enough more people opt for the Maori roll rather than the general one, another Maori roll would result in the loss of another list seat.

Politik asks if there’s too many South Island seats.

There are not, there are too few.

Clutha Southland and Waitaki, the biggest and third biggest general electorates are getting a little smaller but are still far too big geographically and proposed changes will make West Coast Tasman, the second biggest general electorate, even bigger. They’re all bigger than all but one of the Maori electorates, Te Tai Tonga, which covers the whole of the South Island, Stewart Island and a bit of Wellington.

The difficulties of servicing electorates as large as these mean no matter how good their MPs are, they can’t possibly give their constituents the same attention that those with smaller electorates do.

If MMP’s proportionality is to be maintained, the number of MPs will have to be increased and I’d argue for at least one more South Island electorate to make the bigger ones a little more manageable.

You can find existing a proposed boundaries on a map here.


Winners losers, losers winners?

October 12, 2017

Karl du Fresne is right – this is all arse-about-face:

. . . In any half-rational political system, it would be the parties which between them won more than 81 percent of the vote, not Peters with his measly share, that determined the course of negotiations. A minor player such as New Zealand First, if it had genuine respect for democracy, would accept that its negotiating strength should be proportionate with its level of popular support. But again, this is Peters we’re talking about. And sadly he’s encouraged in his delusions by both the media, which can’t resist stroking his ego (for example, by calling him the kingmaker), and by the major parties, whose attempts to appease Peters come perilously close to grovelling.

Pardon the expression, but this is all arse-about-face. It’s demeaning to democracy. We’ve heard a lot over the years about the tail-wagging-the-dog scenario under MMP. Well, here it is writ large, and unfolding before our very eyes.

It’s a situation rich in irony. We voted for the introduction of MMP primarily to punish our politicians and bring them to heal. We were fed up with their broken promises. We wanted to make them more accountable.

Only now are New Zealanders realising that we achieved the exact reverse. Voters have no control whatsoever over whatever’s going on right now behind closed doors at Parliament. In effect, we have placed still more power in the hands of the political elites. This is the antithesis of what the promoters of MMP promised (and perhaps naively believed themselves). . . 

The situation is made even worse because whatever decision Peters and his negotiating team make has to be approved by serious consensus from the party board – the members of which have not been made public.

Frustrating as the protracted negotiations  and the secrecy over the board membership are, my fear is that the government that eventuates might be even worse.

It is possible Winston Peters and New Zealand First have learned from previous failures and will be determined to ensure strong and stable government in the best long term interests of  New Zealand.

But it is at least as likely that they haven’t and that both they and any coalition partners will be damaged by whatever permutation of government is foisted on us.

I dearly want Bill English to continue as Prime Minister but not at any price.

The Employers and Manufacturers Association warns that the country will come to a grinding halt if there are drastic changes to immigration; NZ First’s anti-trade and foreign investment rhetoric contradicts its assertion it wants what’s best for the regions and mining the misery of the Pike River families is simply despicable.

Like David Farrar, I think it will be better for the country to have National leading the government, but it might be better for the party to be a formidable opposition – what Emma Espiner calls the opposition from hell – instead.

I have a lot of confidence in the ability of Bill English and his team. Nine years leading the country through financial and natural disasters has proved they are more than capable. But they will need all their skill and experience, and more than a little luck to govern in coalition with, or the support of, Peters and his party.

Even then, there is a risk that whoever wins in the short  term might become the losers and the losers might turn out to be the winners in the medium to longer term.

P.S. Apropos of foreign investment – Eric Crampton gives some context:

 New Zealand is the most restrictive country in the entire OECD. It is the seventh most restrictive country of the 62 countries they surveyed.


Quote of the day

September 30, 2015

. . . Labour’s problem may be summed up in two words: proportional representation. New Zealand’s MMP electoral system allows minor parties to thrive, thus removing the pressure on opposition supporters to transfer their allegiance to the party best placed to defeat the Government. By denying Labour the 5 to 10 percentage points it needs to become a credible competitor to the National Party, proportional representation and the Greens are encouraging the Right to contemplate permanent political ascendancy. . .  Chris Trotter


SMEs want four-year term

July 29, 2014

Small and medium enterprises want a four-year parliamentary term:

A longer parliamentary term and fewer members of Parliament are two key changes that New Zealand business owners would like to see, according to the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR).

The survey showed that 70% of participants wanted the parliamentary term increased to four years and 60% would like to see the number of MPs or seats in Parliament reduced. Fifteen percent wanted the parliamentary term extended to five years.

Greg Thompson, Partner and National Director, Tax at Grant Thornton New Zealand, said that the desire to have a longer parliamentary term recognises the maturity of the New Zealand political system since the introduction of MMP.

“MMP, compared with the old first-past-the-post system, gives a much wider representation in parliament which in turn takes longer for decisions to get through the system.

“Just look at the Government’s assets sales programme where it wasn’t possible to implement the entire programme in one election cycle. This disjointedness then flowed on to the capital markets with a loss of general cohesion in the New Zealand economy.” . . .

The survey also showed that 38% thought that MMP was the best scenario while 32% thought it should be abolished.

“It is becoming very obvious that with MMP and multiple parties there is always the ongoing need to ‘do a deal’ which takes time.

“For the business owner, this deal making slows down political processes which hinders their own decision making. What a business owner wants is clarity and stability upon which they can plan. The present electoral system and term does not deliver those two requirements.

“While there is a general acceptance of MMP, the fact that 60% of the respondents want the number of MPs or seats in Parliament reduced indicates a belief that ‘too many cooks’ are slowing down the parliamentary process. They prefer quality to quantity,” he said.

Lowering the quantity of MPs isn’t a guarantee there’d be an improvement in the quality of them.

As long was we have MMP any reduction in the number of MPs would make too many electorates too big.

In comparison with New Zealand’s three-year term, the United States and the United Kingdom have four and five year election cycles respectively. New Zealand is one of the few countries in the world to retain a three-year cycle.

Elections slow down activity in government departments and create uncertainty which is unsettling for businesses.

A four year term would be less expensive – giving us three elections every 12 years instead of four – and improve productivity within the public service and private enterprises.


When party vote doesn’t count

July 16, 2014

Under MMP it’s the party vote that counts.

That’s the one which determines how may seats a party gets and ultimately which parties are in government.

That’s the message parties try to give to voters and it’s the one their MPs are supposed to give too.

But Duncan Garner has noticed that at least three Labour MPs are giving a very good indication that they’re a lot more interested in staying in parliament than helping their party get into government.

Three Labour MPs have broken ranks in recent weeks – quite loudly and very publicly.

They are interested in one thing: self-preservation. They want to win their seats and they’ve given up relying on their party. They are clearly concerned Labour will poll poorly on election night, so they’ve decided to run their own campaigns – away from head office and away from the leader.

These MPs have either chosen not to be on the list or they have a low-list spot. They are vulnerable. It’s all or nothing for them.

They must win their seats to return to Parliament; this sort of pressure usually focuses an MP’s mind. They want to be back in Parliament and they want the $150k salary.

I’m talking about West Coast-Tasman MP, Damien O’Connor, Hutt South MP, Trevor Mallard and list MP and Te Tai Tokerau candidate, Kelvin Davis.

Mallard either turned down the list spot he was offered or chose not to go on it.  O’Connor and Davis will need Labour to get more support than it’s had in recent polls to get a list seat.

Take Davis: yesterday he engaged Labour in its biggest u-turn in years. He told me he supported the Puhoi-Wellsford road project that his party has openly mocked and criticised.

Labour MPs call it the holiday highway; David Cunliffe has campaigned against it. Labour, until yesterday, was going to can the project upon taking office. Who knows where they stand now!

Davis told me people in the north tell him they want the controversial project and so does he.

The rest of Labour don’t understand how important this road is to the people of Northland  and how insulting it is to them to refer to it as a holiday highway.

Further south in Wellington, Trevor Mallard is openly campaigning for the return of the moa – against the wishes of his party and the leadership. It’s a desperate cry for attention: Mallard needs visibility and the moa got him the headlines.

That this is the best idea he can come up with to get attention speaks volumes about him and the elvel of desperation to which he’s sunk.

And further south again, Damien O’Connor voted with the Government 10 days ago to allow storm-damaged native trees to be harvested in protected forests.

That supposedly showed his strength but it also showed he’s incapable of getting his party to see sense.

These three blokes are the outliers in the Labour Caucus. And they are blokes too; they need to make some noise to be heard. They clearly have issues with the tame approach within their caucus.

They want to stand out and stand for something that their electorates want (not sure that Hutt South really wants the moa back, though!).

O’Connor and Davis certainly look in touch with middle New Zealand, their electorates and their issues. They have given the one-fingered salute to their struggling party and put self-preservation first.

Who can blame them?

Their colleagues and the volunteers in the party who are still working to stem the slipping in support which threatens to turn into a landslide will blame them.

If they can’t persuade all their MPs it’s the party vote that counts, how can they hope to persuade voters?


NZ politics by Austen

April 20, 2014

Jane Clifton looks at New Zealand politics through Jane Austen’s novels:

We have Labour and the Greens, who anyone can see are made for each other, doing a comprehensive Pride and Prejudice. Just like Mr Darcy, the Greens make an overture to Labour, while making it plain that Labour is really a bit beneath their station and would need to remedy certain unsatisfactory traits and sign a pre-nup first, and Labour comes the full Elizabeth Bennet and tells them to naff off – while making eyes at the dashing but unbecomingly experienced Mr Wickham, aka Winston Peters.

Now Labour leader David Cunliffe is being hauled over the coals for his pertness by a patron every bit as formidable as Lady Catherine de Bourgh: the Labour left, who installed him in office and who expect him to know his duty.

At least in Austen-land, dear reader, all would be well for the left in the end. But it seems destined to transfer to more of a Henry James trajectory: elaborate emotional turmoil culminating, though always elegantly, in open-ended misery. Either the left/New Zealand First parties will fail to build a winning share of the vote, in part precisely because of these inept courting carryings-on making them look disunited, and National will stay in office; or the left will scrape in burdened with intra-party ill will.

Admittedly it’s always amazing how quickly a chip on the shoulder can expire the minute an MP’s bum hits ministerial leather. But the past week’s untidy guts-spilling on the left makes it plain there is simply not enough leather to soothe all the bruised and jockeying egos involved. . .

 Sadly this disarray and distrust on the left doesn’t make it any more certain that we’ll have a National-led government after the election.

SENSE AND INSENSIBILITY

This illustrates why MMP continues to bemuse some voters; how can such contradictory propositions be justifiable at the same time? On the one hand, surely voters should know that if they vote for Party X, that will be as good as voting for Party Y as well because, given the chance, the two will buddy up in the Beehive. Voters might like Party X but deplore Party Y, and should have the information on which to weigh their choice.

On the other hand, such advance team-picking has the effect of railroading some voters into voting tactically rather than strictly honestly – most often so as to minimise the chance of getting the party they badly don’t want in Government, rather than to maximise the chances of the party they most fervently support. NZ First is prey to this, in that most of its supporters will have a marked preference for/aversion to either Labour or National, and if they think Winston will go a particular way, that’s going to cost him votes. He is very wise to say, “If you like me, vote for me.” This agnosticism allows him to auction for the best policy deal.

But then voters become uncomfortable with a minor party holding the balance of power, “wagging the dog”, king-making and so on – unless, of course, the kingmaker is the party they voted for, in which case it’s called “keeping the bastards honest”.

Depending on one’s politics, it might seem reassuring to recall that Mr Wickham was run out of town, and that in the modern version, all Mr Darcy had to do in the end was take his shirt off and jump in a lake.

But there, thankfully dear reader, the Austen-ness of it all comes to a felicitous end.

No party is promising the fairy tale happily ever after. But a government led by National would bring more of the policies which are working and considerably more stability than we’d get from the left.


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