In his recent LTCCP submission, former Napier Councillor Robin Gwynn provided a comparative analysis of deprivation levels in various Wards in Napier.

Using the standard data and methodology employed by Statistics NZ (which aggregates data on basically a city block basis), he showed the dramatic contrast in deprivation levels in Nelson Park and Onekawa-Tamatea as compared to Ahuriri and Taradale. You can see his charts and the underlying data table for all Napier neighborhoods here.

His points are straightforward:

1. Very significant socioeconomic disparities exist within Napier that require recognition and higher priority programmatic attention by the Napier City Council.

2. These disparities and the social needs associated with them fully justify political representation on a Ward basis — i.e., the ability to elect councillors who truly understand and champion the needs of their constituencies.

In Robin’s words, “there are three social ‘black spots’ in the city needing urgent attention, all of which need ten-year plans. But Council doesn’t know it, partly because it hasn’t done its homework and partly because it isn’t using its Ward councillors well or receiving regular reports from them.

So it’s making policy blind. It hasn’t developed grass-roots communications with our suburbs to connect with its community, which Local Government New Zealand describes as its first responsibility. That’s why two of every five of our citizens don’t believe they have much chance to express their views on Napier’s future.”

Other submitters like Anglican convenor Noel Henderey and Pat McGill of the Pilot City Trust voiced similar concerns about unmet social needs in Napier.

The Napier Council’s response was simply to blow off Robin Gwynn. Some Councillors quibbled with his analysis, a head-in-the-sand attitude on an intellectual and perceptual par with denying evolution.

Indeed, it appears that the enlightened Napier Council this week will be discussing progressing a Representation Review aimed at eliminating the current partial Ward system.

Gwynn’s data puts the lie to “one face” for all of Napier, and will make for a compelling case if the Napier Council once again attempts to bury Wards in a Representation Review.

Well done, Robin!

Tom Belford

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2 Comments

  1. Well written Tom! It is quite saddening that such a progressive move as establishing the Ward system is so recently under attack.

    For the Napier City Council to return to 'at large' voting, will do little more than further entrench their Plutocracy, removing the ability for mainstream electors to actually consider standing for Local Government and therefore feeding the all to common belief that Local Government is little more than the play ground of localised business interests.

    One should always question the 'real' reasons behind any authorities move to dis-establishing democratic structures, in my humble experience it has never been to 'improve' the process or quality of representation. Generally always to disempower the majority of citizens and thereby ensuring the continuing rule of the elite.

    The sad balance to this is that a growing number of citizens willingly disregard their democratic birthright and do not participate in the elective process, thereby offering control to minority interests to their collective detriment.

    The reality is that the Napier City Council will probably do as it pleases and the people of Napier will passively sit by.

  2. I must admit that, as a newcomer to Hawke’s Bay, and indeed New Zealand, I am astonished that any local authority would consider reducing its direct accountability to the electorate instead of improving it, which is exactly what the abolition of wards will do.

    I have come from a background in the UK where local authorities, in my case Edinburgh, have a fully functioning ward system which is further backed up by locally elected Community Councils (groups of local citizens who volunteer their time to represent the views and concerns of their local area to the city or local authority). Indeed, in Scotland, local authorities are legally bound to support and consult such bodies as Community Councils. Edinburgh have gone even further by developing Neighbourhood Partnerships which encompass a number of communities and have financial delegated authority to work with council departments, the Police and health authorities to solve the specific problems of an area, all with the direct input of the community and voluntary organisations that reside in that area. This devolution of responsibility down to specific areas has already shown great improvements in a wide range of areas that a city wide set of policies would have ignored.

    Obviously, Edinburgh is a world away from Napier in many ways, but perhaps Napier City Council, rather than trying to remove wards, should look to develop greater local representation with the instigation of a Community Council type model. If they decline, perhaps the communities themselves should take the initiative and form a lobby group to represent their views and concerns to the City Council?

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