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.