An almost 20 percent population growth in popular coastal areas south of Whangarei over the past six years is one of several factors driving a ‘fine-tuning’ of the Northland Regional Council’s representation arrangements.
Chief Executive Malcolm Nicolson says legally, the council needs to review its representation set-up every six years, including looking at how many councillors it has and whether its constituencies’ boundaries are in the right place.
“We introduced some sweeping changes after our last review in 2012, including expanding the number of constituencies from three previously quite large ones to seven smaller ones, and by boosting the number of councillors by one to nine.”
He says the latest round of proposed changes are nowhere near as extensive and are essentially a ‘fine-tuning’ exercise to account for population growth and better reflect current communities going forward. Mr Nicolson says recent population changes – especially in the Coastal South constituency, which includes the popular coastal settlements of Ruakaka, Waipu/Waipu Cove, Langs Beach and Mangawhai Heads – have driven some of the biggest proposed changes. “Legally, we must strive to do what’s best for Northland, which means considering regional ‘communities of interest’ and ensuring effective and fair representation, including making sure each councillor represents roughly the same number of people.”
He says while the council is keen to retain the same number of constituencies (seven) and councillors (nine), given an almost 20 percent population growth there since the 2012 review, it is proposing to make the Coastal South constituency smaller. “We’re suggesting moving Coastal South’s boundary south (matching the Whangarei District Council’s current Mangakahia/Maungatapere ward boundary) and essentially transferring the Maungatapere, Kokopu and Whatatiri areas into our neighbouring Coastal North constituency.”
As proposed, the changes would cut Coastal South’s population from its current 22,980 people to 17,760 and bring it into line with councillor-to-population ratios elsewhere in the region. Mr Nicolson says as people continue to shift north, Coastal South is also expected to remain Northland’s fastest-growing constituency. “Adjusting its boundary now would have the bonus of likely ‘futureproofing’ the area past the next representation review in 2024. “Among the issues people can submit on are the number of constituencies and their names, where their boundaries should be and the number of councillors.”
Mr Nicolson says any changes resulting from the review will be in place in time for the next local authority elections late next year. Public feedback on the proposed changes can be made until 4pm, Tuesday 24 July 2018. The full Representation Review 2018 Initial Proposal is available online at nrc.govt.nz/ RepReview.
Feedback can be provided online though either the council’s online feedback portal via nrc. govt.nz/RepReview or by emailing submissions@ nrc.govt.nz.