Friday, April 12, 2013

How the hell did that happen?

Last year, Palmerston North City Council schemed to undermine my local democracy by introducing at-large election - a system favouring wealthy incumbents and disenfranchising everybody else. But after public submissions, they were ultimately persuaded to retain the ward system and its local representation. I expected the decision to stick because in 2007 the Local Government Commission had rejected a move to at-large representation [PDF], and the reasons for doign so hadn't gone away. So imagine my surprise when I opened the Manawatu Standard to learn that they had overturned it (offline):

City-wide voting is back - the division of Palmerston North into five areas to elect 15 city councillors has been scrapped.


The Local Government Commission yesterday, right on its legal deadline, released the determination abolishing wards, after hearing appeals in February against the city council's decision to retain them.

The commission pointed to a 2010 non-binding poll in which 53% of voters indicated a preference for city-wide voting.

As for the strong arguments they made in 2007 about the need for local representation, they have apparently been forgotten. Apparently now I live in "a single community of interest" with no geographic socio-economic disparities or divergent local interests at all. I guess that's how it looks to rich people on Victoria Ave. The reality is a little different. Highbury isn't Hokowhitu. Summerhill isn't Rangiora. Ashhurst and Longburn aren't even Palmerston North. The people there have different interests, and they need different people to represent them.

The commission's sole concession to local interests is to suggest that STV will provide a mechanism for ensuring they are represented. Which is fine in theory, but as DHB elections show, absolutely unworkable in practice. Assuming only two candidates stand for each seat - far less than do at present - then in October I will be facing assessing the merits of 30 candidates, rather than the six to eight I have to at present. And even for a hardened democrat like myself, that's just too much.