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Every three years elections are held for local authorities. This includes for mayors, councillors, community board members and local board members. These are often called ‘the triennial local authority elections’.
In order to achieve fair and effective representation at these elections, local authorities are required by the Local Electoral Act 2001 to review their representation arrangements at least once every six years.
A representation review addresses the total number of councillors there should be for the district or region and the way they are elected. In the case of territorial authorities, this involves deciding whether councillors are elected from wards or ‘at large’ across the whole district, or by a mix of both wards and ‘at large’. A review also covers the boundaries of wards and constituencies, and their names. In the case of territorial authorities, a review also needs to address whether there should be community boards in the district and, if so, the number of boards; their names and boundaries; the number of members for each board including any appointed members; and whether the board area should be subdivided for electoral purposes.
For the Auckland Council, a representation review will also cover the membership arrangements for its current 21 local boards.
A council’s initial representation review proposal must be publicly notified no later than 8 September in the year before an election.
Any person or organisation can make a submission on a council’s proposal. If a council receives no submissions, the proposal becomes the basis for election at the next triennial election and the council gives public notice accordingly.
If the council receives submissions, it considers these and may change its proposal as a result. If a person or organisation who made a submission is not satisfied with the council’s amended final proposal, they can appeal against it. Alternatively, if a council changes its proposal, any person or organisation (whether or not they made a submission) may object to those changes.
If there are no appeals or objections, the proposal becomes the basis of election at the next triennial election and the council gives public notice accordingly.
If a council receives any appeal or objection it must refer its proposal to the Local Government Commission for determination.
In addition, if a council proposes to not comply with the statutory fair representation requirement for one or more of its wards, community subdivisions or constituencies it must refer its proposal to the Commission whether or not it has received any appeals or objections. The fair representation requirement (also known as the ‘+/-10% rule’) is designed to achieve approximate equality of population represented by each member of a council or board, the current population/member ratios for all areas are set out in the Representation tables in the Resources box on this page.
The council must forward all appeals and objections and, where appropriate, refer its non-complying proposal to the Commission no later than 15 January in the year of the election.
Where there have been appeals or objections, the Commission has a quasi-judicial role to determine all the representation arrangements for that local authority in terms of the fair and effective representation principles of the Local Electoral Act. It takes into account the council’s initial and final proposals, and the submissions, appeals and objections received.
In the case where a council’s proposal does not comply with fair representation requirements and no appeals/objections are received, the Commission will determine the representation arrangements for the ward, community subdivision or constituency concerned only.
The Commission must issue all its determinations no later than 11 April of the election year. These determinations become the basis of election for the council concerned at the next triennial election.
A Commission determination, however, can be appealed to the High Court on a point of law. The appeal must be lodged within one month of the date of the Commission’s determination.
To assist local authorities undertaking representation reviews and members of the public who want to participate in the review process, the Commission has:
These documents can be found in the Resources box on this page.
Separate processes, prior to the representation review process described here, are followed if a local authority wants to or is required to change either its electoral system, i.e. first-past-the-post or single transferable vote, or to establish Māori wards or constituencies. These matters cannot be appealed to the Commission.
A table showing the current Māori electoral population (MEP) and general electoral population (GEP) along with the number of members who would be elected from Māori wards or constituencies in each local authority (based on their current size) is set out in the Resources box on this page.
The electoral arrangements for licensing trusts and district health boards are also not within the scope of the representation review process.
Local authorities not undertaking representation reviews prior to the next triennial elections may still make minor alterations to electoral boundaries in their district or region where there have been property boundary changes at or near existing electoral boundaries.
A local authority decision on a minor boundary alteration must be referred to the Commission for determination.