MANY are calling for change following the election debacle at Whakatane District Council.

A recount of votes following a random chance election in the Murupara-Galatea ward has seen one councillor ousted after just one week and a new one elected.

After the initial vote count, newcomer Hinerangi Goodman and previous seat-holder Alison Silcock were tied.

The stalemate was broken by drawing names out of a hat and Mrs Goodman was declared the winner and sworn in, only to be removed a week later following a recount of votes at Mrs Silcock’s request.

Debate has been raging in Murupara and the wider Whakatane district about how fair this process was, with many saying change needs to happen to prevent this situation in the future.

CALL FOR CHANGE: Mawera Karetai is lobbying for a change in the electoral voting system. Photo Troy Baker D9172-05

Mawera Karetai, has been a strong voice for change, hosting debates involving the community and councillors on her Facebook page.

She believes it is time local government elections moved to a Single Transferable Vote system (STV).

Under a STV electoral system, voters rank candidates in their order of preference rather than simply giving one vote to one candidate as under the current system of First Past the Post (FPP).

Ms Karetai said STV didn’t allow for ties to occur, was fairer and might remove the issue of vote-splitting.

“First Past the Post favours the incumbent and doesn’t allow an opportunity for someone new to come in,” she said.

“However, the biggest problem is the order in which the process is carried out after the election. When there is a draw there should be a recount first to ensure the first count was accurate, before names are drawn out of a hat and someone is elected and sworn in.”

Ms Karetai has run in elections for both the Whakatane council and the Bay of Plenty District Health Board and said FPP was a “soul destroying” process.

She feels the process is so wrong she is now mustering a group of people to lobby the Minister for Local Government Nanaia Mahuta.

“There has been so much emotion around this election and we need to make change happen,” said Ms Karetai.

“It will be my mission to make change to the legislation that governs local government elections.”

The game of musical chairs has angered many Murupara residents, who have taken to their Facebook community page “You know you’re from Murupara when…” to express their disappointment.

Residents of the predominately Maori town have said they are unhappy to be represented by a white woman and that the result would have been different if Mrs Goodman had been the one requesting a vote recount.

Many have also described Mrs Silcock as a “backstabber” for requesting the recount and said they will march on council in protest.

Mrs Goodman was the first Maori woman to represent the ward and Mrs Silcock previously angered many in the ward by voting against Maori seats in the last triennium.

Through the debate on her own page, Ms Karetai said she has seen insults flung at everyone and she felt sorry for everyone involved.

“People have been blaming the council, but it is not their fault, they have just been following the legislation. It is the legislation that is wrong,” she said.

Ms Karetai said abuse had been levelled at both Mrs Silcock and the third competitor in the race, Jackie Te Amo.

Many have said Ms Te Amo took votes away from Mrs Goodman by giving voters two Maori candidates to choose from.

However, Ms Karetai said this wasn’t fair and noted Ms Te Amo entered the race first and had already served on the community board.

“This is not a race issue, this is a procedural issue,” she said. “We need to put our energy into changing the legislation.”