At large Councillors may be gone

August 28th, 2009 at 6:33 am by David Farrar

Bernard Orsman reports:

The Government has dropped a controversial plan to have councillors elected at large on the Auckland Super City.

This follows widespread opposition to the proposal for eight at-large councillors and 12 ward councillors on the Super .

The Royal Commission actually proposed 10 at-large Councillors and only 10 ward councillors. The at large proposal is well motivated. The idea was that these Councillors would put the region ahead of their ward.

But I have blogged consistently against the at large since the Commission proposed them, and am glad they have been dropped. I don’t think you would have got sensible voting if Aucklanders were having to choose 8 or 10 at large Councillors for a possible pool of 40 to 50.

It is understood the Government is considering a halfway house with six urban wards, each with three councillors elected within the ward at large. There would also be two rural wards for Franklin and Rodney with one councillor each.

My preference would be for the wards to elect one Councillor each. This keeps the wards small, and increases the chance that you will know something about the Councillors you vote for, rather than just go off name recognition.

In fact ideally I would have the wards mirror the parliamentary districts.

Brian Rudman agrees with me that smaller wards is preferable to six multi-member wards. That’s almost enough to make me reconsider my position 🙂

Rudman proposes be used to stop winner takes all in the wards. Now initially I think it is appropriate the elections be FPP as that is what almost all the fomer Auckland Councils used. The Local Electoral Act makes it a decision for local voters via referendum if they wish to move from FPP to or vice-versa.

My experience of STV in local body elections is that I think it works well for single vacancies. In other words it is good for voting for the Mayor as you usually know enough about the Mayoral candidates to sensibly rank them.

For multi-member vacancies like DHBs, it is a nightmare. Ranking 32 people in order is near impossible to do sensibly. If Auckland goes with single member wards, STV would work well. With multi-member wards, my concern is that too many candidates will stand to make ranking them a sensible exercise.

12 Responses to “At large Councillors may be gone”

  1. deanknight (240 comments) says:

    On the STV point, why not trifecta STV – rank only the top 3? Not perfect, but practical…

    [DPF: I can live with that. Of course the joy of ranking someone last is why I bother to rank all the candidates. The problem is those middle candidates. The top and toom ones are easy]

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  2. Onehunga (8 comments) says:

    Just a thought, but if the government does switch to just having Auckland ward councillors, would the introduction of Maori wards have an effect of gerrymandering the rest of Auckland in C&R’s favour? I mean, given that Maori voters tend to vote for left wing candidates, they would now be grouped together and so marginal wards would be transformed into safe right of centre wards. They would sacrifice the 2 Maori wards to left wing candidates, but would win all of the marginal wards.

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  3. Owen McShane (1,193 comments) says:

    The problem with single member wards is that if that member is placed on one of the Quasi Judicial Committee (such as one who hear submissions on district plans or hearings on applications, they may not meet with any of those who are interested in the impact on their community.

    So these people are effectively disenfranchised. The alternative is to rotate the committee membership so that no councillor hears an application in their own ward. But this makes no sense for a District Plan hearing because this is where democracy is legitimate.

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  4. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    Surely you match up the electorate boundaries, the local board boundaries and the ward boundaries.

    Therefore, when voting you have to make three choices:

    1) Mayor
    2) Local councillor (only one per ward)
    3) Local board (rank your choices via STV)

    I think STV would work fine for that. By matching all the boundaries up you would simplify things a lot. I think it’s the fact that a lot of people just don’t understand how local government works which puts them off voting. The simpler the system is the better.

    If we start having big wards, broken into smaller local boards, with the Mayor sitting on top of that, but neither the local board boundaries nor the ward boundaries matching with electorate boundaries…. it’s just going to be confusing as heck and put people off voting as much (if not more) than the current system does.

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  5. David Farrar (1,769 comments) says:

    No local boards and wards should not be aligned. Wards have to be of around equal size (per Councillor) to prevent a gerrymander. But local boards should have boundaries that best reflect their natural community. It does not matter if they are of vastly different sizes.

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  6. Graeme Edgeler (3,241 comments) says:

    If they’re single member constituencies then it’s not STV but alternative vote. STV is a proportional system; Alternative Vote is majoritarian – better than plurality certainly, but it’s not STV.

    There are two major problems with STV and DHB elections – first that we have DHB elections at all, and second that it’s a single ward.

    Dean – why limit it to just three votes? It’s necessary for somewhere like Papua New Guinea – where one of the jobs of the Electoral Commission (along with safe sex education) is teaching people how to write numbers, but people who don’t want to rank everyone don’t have to, but if some wants to, then why not let them? Whom does it hurt?

    Surely you match up the electorate boundaries, the local board boundaries and the ward boundaries.

    That’s a really really bad idea. When the electorate boundaries change after each census you’d be creating new local board, and old ones would be shifting with the demographics – the offices for an Easter Bays local board might end up being the vacant ones on the North shore after some boundary change.

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  7. Jeff83 (792 comments) says:

    This is fucking terrible imo. FPP anyone. That was a fantastic system, people really got to choose who they wanted.

    The end result is going to be it will be Nat vs Lab clone fight off in every ward for the counciller position. Further lots of votes wont count (for the single council position) due to the victor being effectively determined by the social economic area you live in.

    Why cant we have a STV system for councillors elected not restricting by use of wards.

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  8. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    I understand the issues around changing boundaries of electorates, but our ward boundaries are going to change anyway for the same reasons – so for a start there’s no reason for at the very least ward boundaries to be the same as electorate boundaries. Each person would have their local MP and their local councillor.

    In terms of local board boundaries, I still think it’s a good idea to match those up to wards where practical. I realise that you’re going to get issues with shifting boundaries, and there are also potential difficulties about what to do with the Gulf Islands. Surely they deserve their own local board.

    I guess overall I’m pushing for simplicity in the system.

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  9. Chris Diack (871 comments) says:

    Mr Edgeler is right.

    Single member constituency cannot ip so facto be STV its better termed alternative voting or preferencial voting. One cannot proportionately allocate a single seat.

    It’s not sensible to align local Board boundaries with ward boundaries. Boards can differ in size and are (except for Islands) suburbs clumped together. The Boundaries are stable population shifts can be handled by increasing or decreasing the number of members but the ratio of members to electors can vary. The issue for board boundaries is the similarity of the suburbs not a strict population deviation quota. Ward boundaries on the other hand must contain populations that are by and large of equal size (equal votes of equal value). Thus in some places these boundaries will be somewhat arbitary,

    Its not sensible to align ward boundaries to electorate boundaries for in reality for half the life of each (3 our of the 6 years) they would be in many cases difference sometimes radically so. Why should population shifts in the South Island determine the ward boundaries for the Auckland Council. Seriously dumb.

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  10. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    Come on Chris surely you know that most of the population change in NZ comes back to what’s happening in Auckland. From memory often 75% of the country’s population growth between censuses is in the Auckland region. Population shifts in the South Island are unlikely to have much effect at all on Auckland’s electorate boundaries – it was the rapid growth of the Botany area that led to that electorate being created for last year’s election.

    Are we going to end up with 4 local boards per ward I wonder… that would be 24 local boards all up, which fits nicely into the 20-30 proposal.

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  11. Chris Diack (871 comments) says:


    Electorate size is determined by a formula dividing the South Island population – that is why the electorates are the size they are. why do you think its wise for this to determine ward size in Auckland and why should population shifts outside the Auckland Council in addition to those within it determine the Auckland Council ward pattern. You are also wrong not all electoral boundary changes for electorates within the Auckland Council boundaries are causes by population shifts within the Auckland Council area.

    The fact is that after a census electorate boundaries are adjusted – finally prumulgated in september in the year prior to a general election i.e. september just prior to local government elections in October of that same year. Thus if they were the same old electorate boundaries they would elect the Councillor and these might vary from the newly adopted electoral boundaries. For local government purposes the returning officers need to know the boundaries at least 6 months prior to any election. Thus one would either have to change the timing of electoral boundary making following a census or change the timing of the local elections.

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  12. deanknight (240 comments) says:

    @ GE

    Because it would work. And would ameloriate the phobia most people have to STV voting.

    Of course, even political saviness doesn’t guarantee accuracy in voting. Having seen an electoral officers presentation on the STV computations, I can tell DPF that his pleasure in ranking someone last is a little misplaced. In doing so, he is potentially / fractionally supporting the final candidate. If he doesn’t the person elected, he would be better *not* ranking them. Any ranking, however low, has the potentially that some of your vote my support the person.

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