Wanganui or Auckland - the decisions won't please everyone - 16/11/2006by Deputy Mayor Dot McKinnon
We may not be embroiled in debate about a waterfront stadium, as are Auckland ratepayers, but I am sure that we will end up paying for it some way or another – even here in Wanganui. Whether it be a sports tax, a bed tax or whatever tax, we will pay. But don't get me wrong. I am not against the concept. I just wish they would hurry up, make a decision and start the project. The 2011 Rugby World Cup will not wait for us to contemplate options.
This week, Wanganui has been embroiled in debate about the 2007 elections and how we might be represented. Council's position is for one ward, instead of a rural and urban ward, and a reduction in the number of Councillors around the Council table. Submitters to the Local Government Commissioners were, in the main, against the reduction in Council numbers and ambivalent about the loss of a rural ward.
The Commissioners were instructed to listen to submitters both for and against Council's representation review, and they will make an arbitrary decision as to the final outcome for our city. Their decision is final and binding for at least the next three years.
The emerging issue, not understood by all the submitters, but constantly stated by the Commissioners, was that we cannot retain the status quo. If we had a rural ward, given the new Local Government Act population guidelines, there would be only one Councillor (and the Mayor) for the rural voter to vote for on the ballot paper. The only way to obtain more rural Councillors is to increase the number of people in the rural ward. To do this, all we could do is to reduce the urban boundary, thus putting more people into the rural ward. This might work in Marybank, but unlikely in St John's Hill, Castlecliff or Wanganui East. I cannot imagine the latter residents considering themselves to be rural.
So is the rural voter being fairly represented by Councillors 'at large' in one ward? Some made the argument that there might not be any rural Councillors elected. Possible, but not likely as rural Councillors have strong profiles in both rural and urban wards in Wanganui. Our current Councillors Higgie, McGregor and Stevens all have high profiles in the city as well as the district. Mayor Chas was rural, GK Taylor was rural and some, like myself, may not be rural today but have spent formative 'growing up' years on a farm. Is there really such a dichotomy between rural and urban? Not today and certainly not in our Wanganui electorate.
So the Council has made its stand, the submitters have put their respective cases to the Commissioners and we now await their decision, to be made by Christmas.
I wish the Commissioners luck in their decision-making. They will not please everyone. Nor will the decision on the Auckland World Cup Stadium please everyone, but the decision must quickly be made.