The Local Government Commission has today released its finalised findings for what the details of the boundary of Auckland’s Super City should be, the boundaries for the various wards and the boundaries of the various local boards. Back in November their draft plans got absolutely panned for being unfair, unrepresentative and – at worst – appeared like blatant gerrymandering.
The main cause of all this angst was that the Local Government Commission were meant to ensure that no ward boundary was over or under represented by any more than 10%. This means that in determining the make-up of the future Auckland Council, whether my vote living in one part of the city was worth approximately the same as someone’s vote living elsewhere in the city. At their first crack, the LGC did a shocking job, and a huge number of the wards were vastly over or under represented. Submissions hammered them for this, as they acknowledge themselves:
We received a number of submissions on councillor representation and particularly the variation in fair representation ratios between the proposed wards. We agree that fair representation is very important. Consequently, while still providing for effective representation of communities of interest, we have made adjustments to ensure wards now more closely comply with the ‘+/-10% fair representation rule’. We believe this will assist achievement of our objective of public understanding of representation arrangements and help promote effective community engagement.
But have they really made things that much better? I don’t think so, and if you have a look at the table which details how under of over-represented each place is, there are still a large number of areas that fall outside that 10% threshold.
March 2010 final version:
The important column to look at is the one on the right, showing the deviation from the average population per councillor. Out of the 13 wards to be created, no fewer than six have a deviation of greater than 10%. That’s almost half of them. The table below shows the November proposal, and you can see that there have been some improvements, but really it’s still outrageous that 80,000 people in the Waitemata and Gulf Ward are only represented to the same extent that 54,000 people in the Rodney Ward are. That’s not fair democracy.
November 2009 draft version:
Some of the other changes that have been made make some sense. Orakei has been split off from Tamaki-Maungakiekie, and thankfully the central Auckland ward has been renamed from Mangawhau to Waitemata and Gulf. It seemed insane for it to be called Mangawhau (Mt Eden), when Mt Eden wasn’t even in it!
However, in general I still think the LGC have done an incredibly lousy job here. How hard can it be to ensure equal and fair representation across the different wards? What’s stopping them from shifting another 5,000 people from Manukau into Manurewa-Papakura to even up those two wards? What’s stopping them shifting more of Waitakere into Albany (some has been shifted) to ensure that those match up more evenly. I realise that some effort has gone into ensuring that the boundaries match “communities of interest”, but I actually think that’s far more important for the local boards than for the wards. The ward boundaries are about democratic equality, and the way they’ve been established is not fair.
Furthermore, if you look at the areas that are over-represented and under-represented it would seem there’s quite a political bias (Orakei excepted). Which is very worrying and suspicious.