Representation Review

By law, all councils have to undertake a Representation Review at least once every 6 years (may be after 3 years), or if Maaori wards are being introduced’.

The Review considers:

  • the number of voting areas (called 'wards'), if any, that is best for our city
  • whether we want to elect all, or some, of our councillors across the whole city or from two or more wards
  • how many councillors there should be
  • how many councillors there should be in each ward
  • whether we want to have community boards, and if so, how many members should they have, and which areas should they cover. 

Current situation

In August 2021, Hamilton City Council underwent a wider representation review, following the decision in May 2021 to establish Maaori wards for the next two local government elections. We sought feedback over a six-week period on our initial proposal for wider representation arrangements. The review was done to ensure fair and effective representation for all Hamiltonians, in line with legislative requirements.

Our initial proposal was to:

  • Retain current general ward arrangement of six councillors elected in the East Ward, and six councillors elected in the West Ward.
  • Retain the mayor elected at-large.
  • Increase the total number of Councillors to 14.
  • Introduce one city-wide Maaori ward with two Maaori ward councillors.
  • Not introduce community boards.

We received 451 submissions with a variety of views put forward.

  • 177 responses (39%) supported the initial proposal in its entirety.
  • 274 responses (61%) did not support the initial proposal in its entirety.
  • 12 people had their say at the Hearing and Engagement Committee meeting via zoom. 

The consultation asked submitters whether they supported the initial proposal or not, and why. There were four key components of the proposal, of which 3 out of 4 were supported by most of those who commented on them as below:

  1. Increase total number of Councillors to 14: Of the 296 who commented on this, 143 (48%) supported the proposed increase to 14 Councillors.
  2. Retain the current East/West general ward arrangements with 6 Councillors in each: Of the 175 who commented on this, 105 (60%) supported keeping the current East and West general wards.
  3. Introduce a city-wide Maaori ward with two Maaori ward Councillors: Of the 52 who commented on this, 41 (79%) supported a city-wide Maaori ward.
  4. No community boards: Of the 43 who commented on this, 27 respondents (63%) disagreed with the proposal and instead sought the introduction of community boards.

Many comments (over a third) were on topics out of scope for this consultation, particularly in relation to Maaori wards - a decision which has already been made. This has tended to slightly skew the ratio of support/non-support of the proposal. Therefore, it is important to note that:

  • 99 comments from the 274 submissions that did not support the initial proposal said this was because they did not support the introduction of Maaori wards.
  • If the submissions rejecting the proposal on these grounds are disregarded as out of scope, the balance of submissions for and against the initial proposal is closer to 50/50.
  • Several submissions also referenced inadequate levels of Maaori representation in general. However, the number of Maaori ward seats is determined by population proportion set by legislation.

On 11 November, Councillors considered the public submissions and voted to approve the initial proposal as the final proposal for representation arrangements, adding two city-wide Maaori ward seats to the otherwise unchanged Council table. 

This decision was publicly notified on 17 November. 

The appeal period was 17 November – 17 December 2021.  


There were five written appeals submitted to Council. Two were considered valid by the Local Government Commission, with the others disregarded as they appealed elements that were not part of the initial consultation – for example, appealing against the introduction of Maaori wards.  

The appeal hearing was held on 8 March 2022. A summary of the two qualifying appeals and the determination made by the Local Government Commission is below: 

Submission one  

The proposed structure provides inequitable suffrage for Maaori due to electing fewer councillors in the Maaori Ward 

The Local Government Commission determined that - 

“If the High Court did consider this matter, and if it did declare a provision of the Māori ward provisions to be in breach of the Bill of Rights the legislation would not change. At most it would create a state of uncertainty as the law remains in place. In the meantime, the Commission still has to make a representation determination for Hamilton City by 10 April 2022 and the only legislation enabling it to do so is that set out in the current Local Electoral Act 2001. 

We have therefore decided to confirm the Council’s proposal for a council of 14 councillors elected from three wards as being a proposal that is legally compliant and has the overall support of the community as indicated through the Council’s submission and other engagement processes. 

 Based on what we have heard we are satisfied that it will provide effective representation of communities of interest.” 

Submission two 

This submission rejects the decision not to establish community boards and proposes four areas to be represented by community boards and outlines how this should be done. 

The Local Government Commission determined that - 

“Firstly, while supporting the concept of community boards as a component of local government, it is not clear that the community board model is the one best suited to meet the broader aims of the appellant. The impression we gained was that what is desired is a fairly activist, advocacy-based model. The Council could have a role in facilitating this, but we feel that considering alternative models as well as community boards may be helpful. We strongly suggest that the Council considers these alongside its review of community committees. Although the context may be slightly different, the Flaxmere Planning Committee established some years ago with the assistance of the Hastings District Council provides one alternative model. 

Secondly, although the appellants consider that community boards for Hamilton City are “ready to go” we consider the issue requires more consideration by the Council and the broader community than has so far been possible. 

Consequently, we have decided to uphold the Council’s decision to not establish community boards.” 

Hamilton’s new representation arrangements will come into effect for the next local Government elections in October 2022.  

Page reviewed: 14 Apr 2022 2:29pm