Monday, June 20, 2011

Submitting on my local democracy

According to a brief in Saturday's Manawatu Standard (offline), the Palmerston North City Council is consulting on introducing Maori wards and changing the voting system to STV. I'll be writing a submission supporting both changes.

Maori are significantly under-represented in local government, with an estimated 5 - 7 percent of local authority councillors claiming Maori descent, versus ~15 percent of the general population. Dedicated Maori seats would ensure a Maori voice and help solve this problem, just as it has in central government. Currently, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council has such seats, and the experiment has been so successful that the Human Rights Commission is arguing for their adoption nationwide [PDF]; I'd like my council to do the same and be part of the solution, rather than clinging to the racist past.

As for STV, it is unquestionably a fairer system than the current block vote, which allows a narrow plurality to utterly dominate each ward and gives us no diversity of representation (either demographically or in worldview). STV would give us fairer electoral results and a better democracy, and could be easily retrofitted over the existing ward system with minimal change. The issue was last considered a decade ago, in 2002, and while it was voted down, I think its time to look at it again. If its rejected again, then people really will be getting the democracy they deserve.