Review to even out Cromwell-Alexandra council imbalance

by Kim Bowden - Mar 20, 2024

Councillors are suggesting the Vincent ward drop one seat on the Central Otago District Council, to even up its representation with growing Cromwell's.

It's all part of a scheduled six-yearly review of how the district's population can best be reflected around the local government decision making table.

For now, Vincent has five seats to Cromwell's four, and that needs to change to reflect the latter's soaring population growth of recent years - as a council staffer put it, the district is "out of kilter".

At a meeting today, councillors opted to put the idea of four-four to residents and ratepayers for feedback.

The option won out over five councillors from each ward - less attractive as it would take the number of seats on council to an unlucky 13 and require a renumeration pool to be divvied up among more people - or the creation of a 'super' ward from the existing Vincent and Cromwell wards with councillors elected at large.

Also up for discussion, a reduction in the number of councillors appointed back to the Vincent and Cromwell community boards from the current three to one.

Speaking at today's meeting, Mayor Tim Cadogan, who took part in some of the discussion remotely, noted there are some heavy workloads ahead for councillors, and he supported easing the obligation to take a seat on the community boards in light of this.

"Councillors are just getting busier and busier and busier." 

However, others, including Teviot Valley councillor Sally Feinerman, acknowledged a councillor on a community board often brings experience and a working knowledge of local government process that can be helpful.

A formal consultation on the proposed changes will kick off before the end of the month and run for four weeks.

A pre-consultation was held during February as a way of getting a "read of the room" of people’s opinions on some key themes, and 79 submissions were received.

Although discussed in this pre-consultation, councillors today opted not to move forward with a name change for the Maniototo ward, an investigation into a Māori ward, nor any change to the number of wards or their boundaries.

The Maniototo Community Board has indicated a strong resistance to any name change, and consultation shows iwi are neutral on it, while members of the community, split evenly.

It does create some some tension with the position taken on the name by the council as an organisation, which has chosen to use what the chief executive calls the correct spelling - Māniatoto - in its usage of it.

"We're content in our position from a staff perspective," Peter Kelly said.

Although there was some discussion about the merits of ditching the perhaps old-fashioned 'Vincent' in favour of 'Dunstan' or 'Alexandra' for that ward's name, both alternatives proved problematic for various reasons, and councillors chose to stick with the status quo.

The Central Otago District Council is going through a six-yearly review of how the district is represented by local politicians.

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