Turning Hamilton’s general electorates around to a north-south orientation to reflect the city’s actual demographic nature has been rejected for the 2020 and 2023 General Elections, but the Representation Commission is on notice that I will be pushing for the idea again when they reconvene in four years’ time.

For the story prior to this point, you can see the submission I made in December to the Boundary Review 2019/2020, where it was the only public feedback on the Commission’s proposed and eventual Hamilton electorate boundaries. And the possibility of a change was picked up by Mike Mather and ran as a front-page story in the Waikato Times and a page 3 in the Hamilton Press in late January.

In late February I made a verbal submission to the Commission. Their response during the call was essentially ‘its too late, it would be too confusing to the voters’. 

I suggested that their planned extension of Hamilton West north to Horsham Downs, extending its bridge-less east-bank Flagstaff enclave to the north, perhaps suggested they were already working towards a future north Hamilton electorate. Someone there kindly suggested I was doomed to be always ahead of my time.    

The Commissioners were polite enough, but they took on nothing I suggested, and made no mention of it in their final Boundary Report.

This experience and the outcome raised several issues that have played out in my subsequent correspondence, which is below along with the notes for my verbal submission.

At this point, I intend to address these issues by agitating for changes in the Council Wards at the next HCC Representation Review in 2021, and then getting in early with a petition to the next Representation Commission Boundary Review in 2024. Contact me if you want to help out.

Notes for verbal submission, delivered 25 February 2020

Thank you for being willing to hear me at this late stage, very confused as I am absolutely certain I registered interest in speaking to this submission.

Prompted initially by anecdotal evidence – not just comment from people I know but the underlying tenor of many letters to the Waikato Times about people not liking the CBD – any one you ask in this town will tell you that people in the north shop at The Base and Rototuna, and people in the south shop and work in the CBD, Ham East and Frankton.

Have you seen the media coverage of my submission?

I have voted in every election since 1987 but never for either National or Labour. I was a Green Party candidate in 2014, but left the Party in 2017 and have no interest in ever being a candidate again, so have no skin in this game. But it the experience of being a Green candidate for Hamilton East in 2014 that further alerted me to the stark social, economic and political differences between the north and south of that electorate alone.

It prompted to crunch electoral booth data for 2008, 2011 and 2014, all of which showed the Greens’ Party Vote was strong in the south-east, around the university. This flagged the wider political pattern seen in The Spinoff’s Party Vote map of Hamilton in 2017.

This Council report makes this north-south statement, I respectively suggest that the Census data referred needs to be investigated and analysed by the Representation Commission, given your resources. This pattern was already showing in the 2013 Census data and may be even more pronounced in the 2018 data, compromised though that may be. Perhaps contact Hamilton City Council researcher for detail? [email protected]

It is perhaps what you are already thinking this is the direction the boundaries may go in the years ahead, in terms of expanding Ham West into Flagstaff. Why not speed it up?

Is a ‘community of interest’ achieved when there’s no physical connection, as in no bridge between the north-east section and the rest of Ham West?

A north-south divide, would be easier to adjust up and down in the years ahead as the city continues to expand and concentrate.

At the current rate of growth, how soon will Hamilton have to be divided into three electorates?

Finally, I reinforce my point about changing the names of the Hamilton electorates to te reo titles.

Mangaharekeke for north and Wairere for south are just my under-informed suggestions, even if you stay with East and West for now, I ask that you consult the city’s mana whenua, via Te Haa o te whenua o Kirikiriroa (THaWK), the group recognised by the HCC as the mandated reps of the local hapu, to find suitable replacement Maaori names for the respective areas covered by these electorates.

This would recognise and manifest the Treaty partnership in the heart of raapatu and Kingiitanga territory and would hopefully be a recognised as as an act of reconciliation by Tainui and the local hapu.     

Post-report correspondence with the Representation Commission

To: Representation Commission / From: Mark Servian / Sent: 17 April 2020 

Kia Ora

thanks for this report and for everyone’s hard work to make it happen, NZ is a better nation for having such an excellent apolitical electoral boundaries process.

I am of course disappointed but unsurprised that my well publicised proposal (filed as an ‘objection’) that the Hamilton electorates be re-orientated to ‘North’ and ‘South’ has not made the final cut.

Can you tell me whether the investigation I requested into the Census results, as flagged by the Hamilton City Council representation report I provided, was actually carried out? Is it possible to appeal the decision or raise a formal complaint that the proposition was not properly investigated?

I have to express some frustration that when I made my verbal submission to the Commission, the response on the call was essentially ‘its too late for such a radical rejig, it would confuse the voters’. That was the only reason given as to why it was not likely to be adopted, the substance, evidence and merits of my submission were not addressed.

This begs the question as to whether there is any point submitting if its a relatively forgone conclusion that citizens cannot significantly amend the boundaries on the strength and evidence of their ideas. Especially when you can point to a report from another part of the government that as a secondary source appears to support the proposed change. Please explain.

Given that ‘its too late’ was said, how do I go about making sure that this Hamilton North-South proposition is on the table at the outset of the next boundary process in five years time? I honestly believe, and have received local support for the view, that the Hamilton East and West orientation does not represent the social and political reality of the city, and therefore distorts voter behaviour and the council’s representation decision-making, and appears to fail the community of interest test in the Electoral Act. How do I to get this idea into the process at a point when it CAN be seriously researched and considered?

Also I have to express my disappointment that my proposal that Hamilton’s electorates be given te reo titles, as an acknowledgement of raupatu, has not been taken up, especially given that te reo titles have been adopted elsewhere. This could easily have been done at a late stage, can you tell me why the Commission did not take this course of action in Hamilton’s case?  

Thanks for your time and consideration

To Mark Servian / From: Representation Commission / Sent: 22 April 2020

Kia ora Mark

I’ve now had the opportunity of discussing your email with the Chair of the Representation Commission and can provide the following response:

 Along with the population quota requirements, the Commission is required to consider the following criteria when fixing the General electorate boundaries:

  • existing boundaries of the General electorates 
  • community of interest
  • facilities of communications
  • topographical features, and
  • any projected variation in the General electoral population of those electorates during their life

The purpose of the public consultation process is to provide the public with an opportunity to have their say on the Commission’s proposed electorate names and boundaries by way of objections and counter-objections. The Commission is required to consider all written objections and counter-objections before finalising the boundaries (section 38(5) of the Electoral Act). 

Your written submission was given due consideration by the Commission, along with the points you made when you spoke to the Commission by telephone. Your written submission provided a link to the 2018 Representation Review options paper presented to Hamilton City Council as part of their recent representation review. As noted at paragraph 27 of the Commission’s 2020 report: Local council areas are often a good indicator of communities of interest and a number of electorate boundaries have been drawn to coincide with these areas. Your submission was considered against the statutory criteria listed above, in particular the existing electorate boundaries, the river as a topographical feature, and the council ward boundaries. 

Please note, voting patterns which you provided information about, in your link to a 2017 SpinOff article, are not a relevant criteria for drawing boundaries.  

 Once the boundaries have been finalised by the Representation Commission there is no appeal process provided for in the Electoral Act. Electoral boundaries are due to be reviewed again following the 2023 Census and the next Māori Electoral Option scheduled for 2024. It may be that in the future increasing population will require a substantial revision of (and addition to) the Hamilton electorates.

 While a number of name changes were made by the Commission as a result public submissions, the Commission has retained the Hamilton East and West electorate names. Generally the Commission did not make name changes to electorates where there was little or no changes to the boundaries.

Public consultation is an important part of the boundary review process and the Chair of the Commission has asked me to thank you again for taking the time to participate in this process.

To: Representation Commission / From: Mark Servian / Sent: 27 April 2020 

Kia Ora

thanks for this, to respond with some questions of clarification and concern.

Your reply below obviously states the formal situation and certainly addresses my questions, but it doesn’t directly answer them.

So to be clear, can you please confirm whether or not there is any opportunity for a proposition for a boundary change to be placed before the Commission before the ‘Objection’ phase?

In other words, am I correct in reading your answer below to mean my Hamilton North-South proposal cannot be placed before the Commissioners earlier that that in their next deliberations?

Is the Commission able to consider a petition at any stage of its proceedings?

I appreciate you confirming that the voting data shown in the SpinOff electoral map could not be considered, I thought this was possible but at no earlier stage in the process has this been notified. Having said that, I offered it mainly as further evidence to the statements in the Council representation report that the city is demographically split north-south, in the absence of other graphic expression.

That being the case, should I have sought to locate and present the primary Census data the Council representation report pointed to, rather than asking the Commission to do that?

To put it another way, is it that the facts of my case needed to be better proven, or that these facts were/are not relevant?

I am concerned that you state below that the Commission uses Council Ward boundaries as proof of communities of interest. This points to a Catch-22 situation because the Council’s two wards do NOT correspond to local communities of interests, instead taking their cues from the electorate boundaries. The public feedback on the Hamilton City Council Representation review in 2018, which followed the report I referenced, was evenly split between support for an at-large all-city vote, and more and smaller wards. There was little or no support for the status quo of two large East-West wards, but no clear steer from the feedback as to whether to combine them or split them up, so the City Councillors simply stayed with the current set-up.   

I don’t want to pester, but I am deeply concerned that this city is being poorly served by both its local and general electoral boundaries and want to confirm there is no way forward under the current rules before publicising the outcome of my efforts.

To Mark Servian: From: Representation Commission / Date: 1 May 2020

Kia ora Mark

Thank you for your follow up email.

The boundary review process is set out in the Electoral Act and only provides for public consultation by way of written objections and counter-objections once the proposed names and boundaries have been made available, see section 38.

Petitions can be submitted as part of the objection and counter-objection process. For example, there was a petition submitted by the Woolston Community Association, signed by 122 signatories, for the Christchurch East electorate for the 2019/20 boundary review. There isn’t a process to ask the Representation Commission to consider a petition or other written material at any other stage.

Objections and counter-objections vary in terms of detail and any supporting information provided to the Commission for consideration. There is no right or wrong way to make a submission, but it is helpful to keep the statutory criteria in mind, set out in my earlier email, when making a submission relating to the boundaries.

We would welcome your input at future boundary reviews.