MPs per sq km

10/12/2008

 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

 


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