Need more electorates

10/01/2020

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.

 


Numbers trump community of interest

17/01/2014

The Manawatu Evening Standard opines on the importance of community of interest in electorates:

The Horowhenua towns of Shannon and Tokomaru are fighting moves to shift them out of the Otaki electorate and into Rangitikei, and the arguments they make for staying put are compelling.

After last year’s census, the Representation Commission proposed electorate boundary changes based on a formula which ensures each electorate has a similar number of people.

While it’s important the commission ensures voters around the country have equal representation, a numerically-focused formula is a blunt tool that can be blind to the nuances of community dynamics and geographical spheres of influence. . .

It is a blunt tool but it is designed to ensure all electorates have the same number of people in them with a tolerance of 5% more or fewer:

The Electoral Act 1993 imposes strict electoral population limits binding on the Commission.  These provide an overall constraint to ensure that there are approximately equal numbers of people in each electorate so that they have equality of representation in Parliament.  All electorates must contain electoral populations varying not more than ±5% from the following quotas which are calculated in accordance with the Act:

The population for each electorate is based on last year’s census:

The North Island quota is 59, 731 with a 5% allowance of +/- 2,986.

The South Island quota is 59,679 with a 5% allowance of  +/-2,983.

Maori electorates have a quota of 60,141 with a 5% tolerance of 3,007.

Within those allowances the Commission, in dividing New Zealand into General electorates, is required by law to give due consideration to:

  • existing electoral district boundaries,
  • community of interest,
  • facilities of communications,
  • topographical features, and
  • any projected variation in the general electoral population of those districts during their life. 

In dividing New Zealand into the Māori electoral districts the Commission is required by law to give due consideration to:

  • the existing boundaries of the Māori electoral districts,
  • community of interest among the Māori people generally and members of Māori iwi,
  • facilities of communications,
  • topographical features, and
  • any projected variation in the Māori electoral population of those districts during their life.

MMP has made provincial and rural electorates far too big, geographically.

Increasing the tolerance to 10% would improve that somewhat. Adding another couple of thousand people to a small urban electorate wouldn’t make much difference to it but taking a couple of thousand people from a large rural one would make it more manageable for MPs and their constituents.

The editorial continues:

The problem with the proposed change is that it not only ignores the close community connection those towns have with the Otaki electorate, but also overlooks the implications of making the already huge Rangitikei electorate even bigger.

Subsequent MPs for Rangitikei have justifiably highlighted the difficulties in providing effective representation to people in an electorate that spans from Linton in the south to Taumarunui in the north. Making it geographically bigger and adding more constituents is only to make that situation worse.

If a more holistic view was taken, the commission would surely have concluded that, despite its population dropping, Rangitikei constituents were actually receiving less genuine representation than voters living in electorates with more people. . .

Rangitikei now covers an area of 12,189 square kilometres. That’s big but 13 are bigger.

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

Contrast that with the 14 smallest electorates:

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

The editorial is right that people in the larger electorates can’t possibly receive the same representation as those in the smaller ones, no matter how good the MPs are.

There are two simple ways to improve that: increase the population tolerance to 10% or add another general electorate to the South Island.

Electorate size is determined by dividing the South Island population by 16, adding an electorate would divide it by 17.

The Representation Commission has received 409 objections to proposed electorate boundary changes:

“Objections include suggestions for electorate name changes and changes to boundaries to reflect their communities of interest.  Some objectors want to see the existing electorate boundaries retained,” says Bernard Kendall, Chair of the Representation Commission.

“A summary of the objections is now available for people to make counter-objections,” says Mr Kendall.

People have until 5:00pm, Wednesday 29 January to make counter-objections.  Counter-objections can be made online at www.elections.org.nz, or sent by post, email or fax.  The Commission will take the counter-objections into account when deciding the final boundaries. 

A summary of the objections can be viewed online at www.elections.org.nz or printed copies can be viewed at libraries, Registrar of Electors’ offices, Council offices or Council service centres, Te Puni Kōkiri regional offices, Māori Land Court offices and Rūnanga offices.

Electorates that have generated the most comment include:

  • Mt Roskill with 128 objections including two form submissions from 600 people and one petition with 38 signatures.  The majority of objections oppose an area within the existing Epsom electorate moving into the Mt Roskill electorate.
  • Maungakiekie with 24 objections mainly opposed to the proposed boundary with the Tāmaki electorate around Stonefields.
  • Helensville with 37 objections most of which oppose the geographic size of the electorate and the wide range of communities to be represented.
  • Mt Albert with 17 objections opposed to the splitting of Grey Lynn from Auckland Central.
  • Kelston with 16 objections mainly opposed to the inclusion of the Te Atatu South area in the Kelston electorate rather than the Te Atatū electorate.  There are also objections about the inclusion of Waterview in Kelston.
  • New Lynn with six objections including two petitions with over 180 signatures, opposed to the transfer of population from Mt Roskill to New Lynn and changes that split the New Lynn community.
  • Taranaki-King Country with 25 objections mainly opposed to the inclusion of Temple View, which is currently in the Hamilton West electorate.
  • Port Hills with 19 objections including one petition with over 60 signatures, opposed to the Halswell area moving from the existing Selwyn electorate into the Port Hills electorate.  A number of objectors suggested it should be named ‘Banks Peninsula’.
  • Christchurch Central with 15 objections including a petition with over 20 signatures, opposed to the northern boundary with the Waimakariri electorate.  A number of objectors suggest it should be named ‘Avon’ or ‘Ōtākaro’.
  • Christchurch East with 11 objections including one petition with over 200 signatures, opposed to the inclusion of the Bromley area in the Port Hills electorate.  There are also objections to the proposal to move Mairehau and part of St Albans from Christchurch Central to Christchurch East. 
  • Selwyn with 10 objections including one petition with 180 signatures, opposed to the communities of Hornby, Islington and Hei Hei moving into Selwyn from Wigram and two objections about Rakaia moving into Selwyn from Rangitata.

409 objections compares with 331 objections received when the boundaries were last redrawn in 2007.

The Representation Commission plans to hold public hearings between 10 and 19 February.  The final boundaries will be released on 17 April.

If objectors in Rangitikei are arguing that it should have fewer people than the law allows they will get nowhere.

They are on strong ground in arguing about community of interest but if Shannon and Tokomaru stay in Otaki, people from other areas will have to go into Rangitikei.


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