National MP Mark Mitchell vows he will continue to fight for the issues dear to his heart in north Rodney, despite the fact he will no longer represent the area if proposed changes to electorate boundaries go ahead.
Last month, the Representation Commission, responsible for reviewing New Zealand’s electoral boundaries, proposed dismantling the Rodney electorate.
The changes would see Mahurangi, including Warkworth, move into a rearranged Helensville electorate. The Hibiscus Coast section of the Rodney electorate would form part of a new electorate called Whangaparaoa and would include Dairy Flat and Coatesville. Wellsford, Te Hana and Pakiri, which are currently in Northland, would also move to Helensville.
Helensville would further absorb parts of what is now in the Upper Harbour electorate, but would lose the Waitakere Ranges to New Lynn.
The commission says the adjustments are needed because of population growth. Without the changes, the growing Rodney electorate would be 14 per cent over its population quota.
Mr Mitchell describes the changes as a big disappointment.
“It’s my community, where I have a huge personal investment and I enjoy enormous support,” he says.
Nevertheless, Mr Mitchell does not propose to contest the Representation Commission’s proposals, saying that the intensification of housing in the south of the electorate and the projected growth in Warkworth made boundary changes inevitable.
“We will wait to see what the final boundaries are when they are released next year, but I don’t anticipate a lot of change to what is proposed,” Mr Mitchell says.
Chris Penk has already been confirmed as the National Party candidate for the Helensville seat, and Mr Mitchell plans to stand in the Whangaparaoa seat.
Despite the planned move to Whangaparaoa, Mr Mitchell says he will continue to champion north Rodney causes, such as the Matakana link road and the dredging of the Mahurangi River.
He says he will strive to ensure the link road opens before completion of the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway and vows that if National gets back in power at the next election, Government money will be found for the river dredging.
Another MP struggling to adjust to the changes is Labour list MP Marja Lubeck, who was due to be confirmed as the Labour candidate for Rodney just days after the Commission’s proposal was released.
The Commission’s proposal scotched the confirmation proceedings and instead a Labour Party members’ meeting in Silverdale focused on the implications of the proposed boundaries.
Like Mr Mitchell, Ms Lubeck feels she has got to know communities in both the proposed Helensville and Whangaparaoa electorates.
“I feel I’ve made inroads into Rodney and I feel people were pleased that for the first time they had a Labour representative based there,” she says.
“It’s now split, so I will have to make a decision as to whether I stand in Whangaparaoa, which is condensed in size, or Helensville, which is hugely spread out.”
Meanwhile, Rodney-based NZ First MP Jenny Marcroft believes if the proposals go ahead, some people are going to resent the loss of the Rodney electorate, and suddenly being absorbed into
Helensville, in much the same way they resented being absorbed into the Supercity.
“You become quite parochial and attached to your area. To not even have a Rodney – some people are going to struggle with that,” she says.
On the other hand, Ms Marcroft’s ancestors landed in Port Albert, now in the proposed Helensville electorate. She says if her party agreed, standing as the NZ First candidate in Helensville might be a natural fit for her. Ms Marcroft previously stood in Tamaki.
The Rodney district took its name from Cape Rodney, near Leigh. Cape Rodney was named by Captain James Cook in 1769, after British admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney.
More details of the proposed boundary changes can be found at vote.nz.