Why it’s good to vote for your local council

At a recent public meeting I held, less than half the people attending had voted in local body elections. That reflects low voter participation around New Zealand and a very casual attitude to democracy.  Moving to online voting (to be trialled in 2016), introducing civics education in schools, and wider use of single transferable voting as a fairer voting system could all help increase turnout in the longer term.

In the short term, we need to show we value local democracy by voting. This election it’s especially important because the National Government is marginalising local government through law changes to centralise power and increase Ministerial decision making at the expense of  council decision making. We need to take our power back. Voting for your local council is an easy way to be politically active.

If you haven’t voted yet because you don’t know who to vote for and don’t know enough about the candidates then find out more about who’s standing and what they represent here http://www.vote.co.nz/2013/elections/regions/

So the question is why should we care, and why should we vote for our local councils?

Local councils make lots of decisions which affect and influence our daily lives. Dunedin City Councillor Jinty McTavish has a great list of examples here: http://greaterdunedin.co.nz/blog/2013/10/4/jinty-a-day-in-your-life-with-council


You should also vote because Councils:

  • decide how our money is spent – whether you pay rates directly or through your rent,
  • provide essential services such as drinking water and sewage treatment,
  • help us stay connected through good public transport and cycling and walking facilities,
  • provide attractive public spaces and safe and enjoyable places for children to play,
  • influence the extent to which we protect heritage buildings and keep a hold of our history,
  • influence the amount of waste which is recycled and what goes to landfill, and
  • decide how to protect our natural environment.

Local government has an enormous influence on the services we use each day, on our neighbourhoods, the quality of our urban and rural environments, the way our communities function, and on our quality of life. It has a vital role in creating places that are safe and enjoyable to live, play, work in; to build businesses and organisations in; to grow families or retire in.

A strong local government sector is crucial to achieving environmental protection and resilient communities.

Please vote for your local council – it needs you! It needs you to vote, and to engage in the issues that affect the communities and places you live in and love.

You need to post your papers back in the freepost envelope by Wednesday 9 October or take them to your local council office before 12 noon on Saturday 12 October.

If you haven’t received your voting papers you might not be enrolled to vote. You can get an enrolment form from any Post Shop, or by phoning 0800 367 656, free texting your name and address to 3676 or download one from www.elections.org.nz.

7 Comments Posted

  1. Checking out the Wellington returns, they seem to be running slightly ahead of the previous couple of elections in 2010 and 2007, although still unfortunately low.

    That table only lists returns, but i’d be interesting to see how many people voted in each of the different elections enclosed in the voting papers. eg. What’s the turn-out like for DHBs compared with Mayoral voting in the same ward?

    It’s not clear, from that table, how the comparisons between elections might be affected by the fall of weekends and so on. I don’t remember but I’m assuming it always ends on a Saturday, so those comparisons would be lined up by weekday.

  2. Kapiti seems to be heading for a record low turnout as well. Don’t think its apathy though, seems to be more a realisation that few candidates have anything different to offer, and that the political establishment is adept at neutralising any rare individuals that do stand for anything other than ‘business as usual’.

  3. Here in ‘Dunez’ there is a Green candidate standing.. BUT the local TV news said recently that less than 15% had voted so far. BUT they are hoping there maybe a mad, last minute rush.

    It does seem the biggest enemy of Democracy is APATHY ?

    oh dear… how sad ????


  4. I agree with MikeM’s comments. What might help is better access at voting time to how existing office holders voted on key issues (from the minutes of the various meetings), and how the new candidates would have voted on those same issues, along with some comments from the candidates about why they made those decisions.

    Currently the candidates positions seem to be either “trust me, I know what I am doing” or “you deserve better – it’s time for a change”.


  5. All for civics education, though I do worry it’ll just be a load of ‘this is our system, isn’t it system wonderful’ tosh, rather than teaching people to critically appraise political and social systems.

  6. Hello Eugenie and everyone.

    Moving to online voting (to be trialled in 2016)

    Is there a point where the Green Party draws the line with online voting?

    I’d grudgingly accept it for local elections, on the grounds that if it’s well implemented then many of the traditional criticisms (lack of anonymity etc) aren’t much worse than postal voting. But I’d start getting very concerned if we went from our current national election system to an online voting system.

    I feel reasonably okay voting in mayoral, local and regional elections, but I get stumped with the District Health Board, because I virtually never engage with it in any way that I recognise. I know of almost none of the candidates, all I have to go on is a biased blurb composed by themselves. I shamefully made many of my decisions based on things like whether I thought it’d be more valuable to have an accountant or an economist on the Capital & Coast DHB, and that still took me the better part of an evening to go through and rank them. Even trying to find out the current composition of the DHB, from the previous election, was a chore and a half.

    I’m certain there’s a lot of relevance in local politics, but when local politicians aren’t regularly reported or commented on in public, except with the odd profile shortly before an election, it’s nowhere near as easy as national-level politics where people get to see what’s happening and form opinions about their representatives.

    Introducing ‘civics education’ almost sounds as if it’s putting the blame on the voters, but I still think I tried really really hard and there were some areas I still didn’t feel competent to vote on, because the information I needed simply wasn’t there. Looking at shaping how and where and why local politicians are encouraged and expected to engage with the public probably wouldn’t hurt.

    My gut feeling is that a much bigger issue with voter apathy is to be found in people seeing the relevance in local councils, and that switching to a form of online voting will probably make very little difference. It’ll very possibly create more ambiguity and trust issues than it’s worth, and it’ll lead to demands for online voting in national-level elections, which would risk transferring those issues an order of magnitude higher up the chain.

  7. In Kapiti, the council CEO kicked off the election campaign by publicly announcing that if candidates take strong positions on things, or make commitments, they would not be able to vote on these issues if elected as this would suggest they do not have an ‘open mind’ as required by the Local Government Act when local authorities undertake consultation.

    As a consequence, candidates have been unwilling to make statements about their positions on significant issues, which hardly encourages people to vote.

Comments are closed.