Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Mental wards

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With all the consultation going on recently, I would have missed the significance of the council's Representation Review if it wasn't for a post by Zippy Gonzales. I haven't had a chance to form an opinion on the merits of wards vs at-large systems, but one of the proposed options seems crazy to me: the amalgamation of five wards into three. The consultation document (347kB PDF) makes it clear that wards should group together "communities of interest" which it defines as "grouping[s] of the population, on a geographical basis, which has social and economic coherence". So I ask you: what does Te Aro have in common with Makara!?!

Proposed ward changes for Wellington City CouncilI realise that simple geographic boundaries can never perfectly define "communities of interest", but some of these changes just seem perverse. From an urban form point of view, which has a major influence on local government issues such as transport and building regulations, it's bizarre to group together the highrises of Lambton Quay with the quarter-acres of Karori and the windmillphobic imitation farmers (and a few real farmers) of Makara.

It's clear that some changes need to be made. For instance, the soaring population of the Lambton Ward means that voters there are increasingly under-represented. But some of the variations on the 5-ward option make much more sense. For example, options 2 and 3 both shift Wadestown to Onslow/Western and Roseneath to Eastern, emphasising the "inner urban" character of the Lambton ward.

As usual, I've come to this late: public input closes today. If the arguments above don't convince you to submit against the 3-ward option, consider this: in that option, the most over-represented ward would be the Northern one. And that's Peter Dunne territory.


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