Input sought on idea to merge rural wards

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Should the Kaiwera/Waimumu ward be combined with the Waikaka ward? That is the question the Gore District Council will soon put to the public.

Kaiwera/Waimumu ward councillor Graham Sharp was against the proposal, saying he knew his patch but did not know what was going on in Cr John Gardyne’s Waikaka ward.

Councillors decided at their Tuesday night meeting to test the water by calling for public input on the idea.

The idea came to the fore during a representation review.

Under the current system, there is a councillor elected in the Kaiwera/Waimumu ward and another in the Waikaka ward. Under the proposal, two councillors would be elected for the combined ward.

Chief executive Steve Parry said in a report the two rural wards could be amalgamated into one larger rural ward.

“Such an approach would confer greater choice in regard to election of councillors than what is currently offered via two separate wards,” Mr Parry said.

Mr Parry said the issues that came before council tended to be “pan-rural” and not focused on any one of the two wards.

“It would seem from this vantage point that very localised communities of interest exist and tend to centre around the hall, school or the small rural hamlets of Pukerau, Mandeville and Waikaka,” he said.

However, there had been localised issues that demanded the council to focus on the Waikaka ward. These were the governance changes to the Otama rural water scheme and the new Pyramid bridge, he said.

Cr Gardyne was apprehensive about the idea, saying an amalgamated ward might stretch too far and provide some unfamiliar territory of which he did not have a great knowledge.

Cr Sharp said he knew his ward but did not know the Waikaka ward.

“I think the status quo is good,” Cr Sharp said.

“There’s no point fixing something that ain’t broken.”

Cr Nicky Davis said if there was one combined ward, it might prompt more people to stand in local body elections.

Cr Davis was keen to the “float” the idea with the public via the submission process.

Cr Peter Grant said rural people were already well represented, as two out of the three councillors elected district-wide were from the rural sector.

The council decided to put the proposal out for public comment.