I’ve spent a bit of time discussing parts of the Royal Commission report that are not that flash (I should note I am a strong supporter of the overall direction of one Council and an elected Mayor with enhanced powers), so here is where I spell out what I would do.
First of all I would scrap the at large seats, or at least reduce their number. Ten at large seats is a huge amount and what it means is that you may have say 50 people standing for 10 positions, and in that scenario it becomes name recognition only – not informed decision making.
It also means that an area such as Manukau could end up with only 2 Councillors out of 23, despite being 30% of the Region.
No Right Turn has a model that works well with no at large, and 1 to 6 Councillors per ward, which has equality of representation.
My second decision would be to have local Council boundaries and Ward boundaries the same. The Royal Commission allows them to be different which is confusing.
My third decision would be to have more, yet smaller, local Councils (and in fact don’t call them Councils as that confuses them with the Auckland Council, so I will call them Local Boards).
The local boards should be small enough to not need further wards underneath them. I quite like the 11 council/board option in the RC report.
If you had 11 smaller boards and wards, then each of them could elect two Councillors each (if their boundaries were adjusted so populations were similar enough) to the Auckland Council. And each of them would have perhaps just half a dozen members.
Finally you have the Maori reps. Putting aside my personal views that long-term these take us down the wrong path, I think it is inevitable the Council will have some as they have been recommended. But under the current proposal, their number is way too high as you have one per 30,000 residents compared to one per 120,000 in the main wards.
However if one gets rid of the at large seats, then the correct number of Maori seats would be around 1.5 – so say two Councillors elected off the Maori roll. I don’t think mana whenua should directly appoint a Councillor, but can live with a Maori roll election as we do have the precedent.
So in total my principles would be:
- Abolish at large Councillors
- Ward boundaries for Auckland Council should match local Council/Board boundaries
- Have more, smaller local Councils/Boards
- Have local Councils/Boards small enough so that they in turn do not need another set of wards beneath them
- Have a Maori roll ward with one or two Crs, but do not have direct appointment by mana whenua
As I said I am supportive of most of the Royal Commission’s recommendations, but the representation model they have devised is one that can be improved upon – in my opinion.