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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 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; 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 31 August in the year before an election.
Any member of the public can make a submission on a council’s proposal. The council considers all submissions received and may change its proposal as a result. If a person 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 may object to those changes.
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 or constituencies (known as the ‘+/-10% rule’), it must refer its proposal to the Commission whether or not it has received any appeals or objections.
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.
The Commission has a quasi-judicial role to determine 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 both the l council’s initial and final proposals, and the submissions, appeals and objections it 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 or constituency concerned only.
The Commission must issue all its determinations no later than 11 April of the election year.
A Commission determination can be appealed to the High Court on a point of law.
Note: A separate process is followed if a local authority wants to change its electoral system, i.e. first-past-the-post or single transferable vote; or if it wants to establish Maori wards or constituencies. These matters cannot be appealed to the Commission. The electoral arrangements for licensing trusts and district health boards are also not within the scope of the Local Government Commission.