Several on the left has expressed outrage that the Local Government Commission boundaries for the new Auckland Council has the two rural areas with a smaller population per Councillor, than the urban areas.
They blame this on Rodney Hide and the Government. But in fact what has happened is very common, as I will show.
As Parliament is the supreme legislative boday, the law is inflexible and all electorates must be within 5% of the average population or quota. That means boundaries often will cut through existing suburbs or communities of interest, to fit the 5% tolerance.
The law has always allowed more flexibility for local bodies, in recognition they are not actually always contested by party tickets (in fact few are), and that if you want to have rural areas with a dedicated Councillor, sometimes you have to exceed the 10% tolerance target. The Local Government Commission has this power, and has always had it – this is not new.
Here’s some examples.
- The 2010 Christchurch City Council wards have an average population per Councillor of 26,803 but rural Banks Peninsula has only 8,166 while Riccarton-Wigram has 29,310
- The 2007 Auckland City Council wards have an average population per Councillor of 22,390 but Hauraki Gulf Islands have 9,470 and Hobson 24,367. Were the Greens complaining that Waiheke had three times the voting power of Hobson No.
- The 2007 Auckland Regional Council wards range from 85,300 for Papakura-Franklin to 110,967 for Manukau – so even existing ARC boundaies have Papakura-Franklin with 25% more Councillors per population than Manukau.
Here is what the LGC said in setting the 2007 boundaries:
compliance with statutory requirements would require including at least 7,500 and 5,000 more people in the current Papakura-Franklin and Rodney Constituencies respectively, and this would expand the already large geographic areas the representatives for these constituencies have to cover, requiring longer travel times and restraining their ability to provide effective representation to these communities.
The LGC waives the 10% target, when they think it may leave rural areas without effective representation. Take for example Banks Peninsula – if that ward was expanded to include some of urban Christchurch, then the BP community would be a minority in their own ward and be without “effective representation”
Now you can agree or disagree with the LGC, but the point I am making is that this is nothing new.It is not some gerrymander designed just for the Auckland Council. It is in fact pretty much the status quo. In fact going from 13 to 20 Councillors in the Auckland Region has provided more flexibility.