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Southern Ward Loses Councillor
Nelson Mail 05/04/07 by Sally Kidson
The Lakes-Murchison ward is the loser and Richmond and community boards the winners in a Local Government Commission decision on council representation in the Tasman district.
The commission announced its ruling Wednesday following an extensive review of the Tasman District Council's representation plan for this year's elections.
It decided to reduce the number of TDC councillors in the Lakes-Murchison ward from two to one, while increasing the number of councillors in Richmond from three to four. Golden Bay and Motueka will retain their community boards, despite the council recommending that they be abolished.
The commission also extended the boundary of the Lakes-Murchison ward northwards to include the Wai-iti area, which had previously been in the Moutere-Waimea ward.
The commission said it did not believe the Lakes-Murchison communities were isolated enough to warrant more representation than the ward was legally entitled to.
The Local Government Act requires one councillor for every 3527 people, plus or minus 10 percent. Under that formula the Murchison-Lakes and Golden Bay wards only qualify for one each.
However, the commission ruled that Golden Bay was isolated enough to justify two councillors.
The decision has been labelled ``disastrous'' by Tapawera councillor Stuart Bryant. One councillor could not effectively cover such a large area, he said.
Cr Bryant was ``astounded'' that the commission had changed the Lakes-Murchison boundary to include the Wai-iti area, as those people aligned themselves with Wakefield, not the more southern communities, he said.
``What they have done, in my view, is given this ward a dog with five legs,'' he said. ``They've got it wrong. It's just going to be a disaster.''
The commission acknowledged that widening the area of the Lakes-Murchison ward would present a challenge for a councillor, but said the location of Wai-iti between Richmond and the rest of the Lakes-Murchison ward would enable a councillor to meet residents without being inconvenienced.
But Cr Bryant insisted the decision was unfair as Golden Bay was still over-represented.
``They were entitled to 1.6 councillors but they've got two and a community board.''
He was weighing up whether to stand again for the council given the huge increase in workload the decision would mean for a Lakes-Murchison councillor.
Murchison councillor Ted O'Regan said he was also considering whether to stand in the ward again following the decision, which he called a ``sick joke''.
Lake Rotoiti District Community Council chairman Doug McConochie said reducing the number of councillors in his ward was ``ridiculous''.
``Those guys do a very good job for our community and are run off their feet at the moment. To go and double up their work and add to it is unbelievable.''
He worried that the rural community would lose its voice and effective access to the council.
Murchison District Community Council spokesman Simon Blakemore was also gutted by the decision. He felt the commission had not listened to the community and because it had visited Murchison in summer, did not understand how isolated it was.
``If they came in the middle of winter for a night meeting and had to drive through miles of frosty road it might have been a difficult outcome.''
But community board heads were celebrating this morning, saying the commission's decision to retain their organisations was both fantastic and a relief.
The commission said the boards provided ``a community-wide coherency'' to local government decision-making.
Golden Bay board chairman Joe Bell said it was an excellent result for the area. It reflected the strong public support for the board shown in public submissions to the commission.
Motueka Community Board chairman Cliff Satherley said the decision was ``good news for democracy''.
Mayor John Hurley could not be reached for comment this morning.