Feds: Unfair to short-change South Canterbury on representation

31 July, 2018

As Environment Canterbury’s largest constituency by far, covering an area with significant water quality and quantity issues, South Canterbury should not be short-changed on its number of councillors, Federated Farmers says.

South Canterbury deserves to be represented around the ECan table by two councillors not just one, the three Canterbury provinces of Federated Farmers have said in submissions on the ECan representation proposal.

“At more than 18,000 square kilometres, the South Canterbury is one third again the size of the two other rural constituencies,” Federated Farmers South Canterbury President Jason Grant says.

“Its sheer size, its diverse landscape and land uses and the pressures coming on for far-reaching environmental protections – particularly in the Mackenzie Basin – mean it’s crucial the area has strong representation at the regional council forum.”

The proposal is that ECan comprises 13 councillors, two each from four urban and two rural constituencies (North Canterbury and Mid-Canterbury) and one from a South Canterbury constituency.  

“We’re saying South Canterbury should have two councillors like the others, and thus the council would have 14 members,” Mr Grant says.

The Electoral Act 2001 says representation should take into account communities of interest and territorial authority boundaries, as well as being guided by a rule that the ratio of elected representatives to population in each constituency should be within +/- 10% of the regional average.

Under the current proposal the one councillor for South Canterbury’s population of 61,320 is a 30.2% deviation from the average of one councillor per 47,098 residents.

“Two councillors in South Canterbury is also a deviation (of -29.9%) but it’s slightly less than the proposed discrepancy – and South Canterbury’s circumstances warrant it.

“The water quality and quantity processes ECan is engaged in are controversial and potentially have a great impact on the economic wellbeing and viability of rural communities.  The Mackenzie Basin issues are a particular focus of public interest, and the needs there are very different from the intensive pastoral and arable land uses in coastal South Canterbury,” Mr Grant says.

“It’s unreasonable to expect one person to get around such a huge district, and to represent the varying needs of South Canterbury in an effective manner that contributes to ECan’s smooth running and success.”