News | 27 August 2021
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Wellington City Council approves representation review

Wellington City Council has approved community consultation for its Representation Review Initial Proposal, a requirement for Council following its decision in May to establish a Māori ward.

A Māori pouwhenua (carved pillar) at Oruaiti Reserve, Wellington.

The review will seek submissions on the total number of councillors, whether any councillors should be elected at-large (by the whole city), the number of wards (electoral subdivisions), the boundaries, names, and number of councillors for each ward and what community boards there should be (if any).

Four broad options were investigated and reported to Councillors. These are:

  • Status quo plus Māori ward plus variations on the status quo 
  • Five general wards plus one Māori ward and some councillors at-large  
  • Three general wards plus one Māori ward and some councillors at-large 
  • Six general wards plus one Māori ward and some councillors at-large.

“We are statutorily required to undertake a representation review every six years. The last review was only for the 2019 election, and the only reason a review is required this time is because we’ve already made the decision to establish a Māori ward,” says Mayor Andy Foster. 

“Because of that, and the Māori ward decision only being made in May, we have not had the time to undertake the analysis or the early community engagement which a full review would ideally require. 

“On that basis, and because of the substantial number of major issues we will be putting in front of our community over the pre-Christmas period, we did not want to add a substantial change to the electoral arrangements.

“Council and community are about to enter into major governance work and consultation on hugely important issues such as the larger components of Let’s Get Wellington Moving, a new District Plan, our Cycleways Plan, Solid Waste management plan, a new Economic Strategy and much more. Agreeing on the status quo with the addition of the Māori ward seems the sensible option at this time.

“In agreeing to this review and consultation we are sending a clear message; this council understands our community is evolving in a way that directs openness to Te Tiriti o Waitangi – The Treaty of Waitangi and is seeking more inclusive representation if we are to live in a city of equality.” 

Deputy Mayor Sarah Free noted that there are pros and cons with all the options, including that over time the current representation (ratio of councillors to number of residents) has become less balanced in some wards. 
However, communities are being asked at present to take on board a lot of change, and it must be asked whether changing the ward system is a high priority for the city right now, says the Deputy Mayor. 
“It may make more sense to have a comprehensive review in three years’ time once we know the outcome of the review of local government. Also, the change to have iwi representatives and a Māori ward will have had time to bed in, and we will have the results of the 2023 Census.

“However, this is a matter for the public to determine and we welcome hearing their views.”

Councillor Jill Day says Wellingtonians strongly supported the creation of a Māori ward to honour our commitments under Te Tiriti o Waitangi – and today we have taken another step towards doing that.

“The creation of a Māori ward should not trigger wholesale change; it’s about correcting a historic wrong. The law shouldn’t require a city-wide review of representation when a Māori ward is introduced, and I hope the Government will reform this area of law.”

Public consultation on the Council’s Representation Review Initial Proposal will start Saturday 4 September ending Monday 4 October with a meeting Tuesday 12 October for oral submissions.