Jan Logie

How to have more diverse councils

Councils around the country should be representative of the communities that they work for. In order for this to happen, the voting systems that elects councillors and community board members needs to be improved. Introducing Single Transferable Voting (STV) to more parts of Aotearoa would improve the diversity of local councils. There are many things that councils could do to increase diversity, and I want to outline a few.

There has been discussion over many years over the difficulty in establishing Māori seats on councils to ensure Māori have a seat at the table. This remains a largely technical possibility however, as proposals to establish a Māori seat triggers a referenda. Recently, unsurprisingly, in New Plymouth the pakeha majority rejected a proposal to establish a Maori seat. A referenda is not triggered for many other changes. Those opposing Māori seats usually suggest Māori can stand for council like anyone else, yet despite the importance of local government for Treaty rights it is very rare for Maori candidates to be elected. As a result Māori are not being heard at the local government level. Most councils still have first past the post elections and this privileges pakeha.

In Auckland, council continues to be dominated by pakeha as well. Despite making up nearly a quarter of the Auckland population, there are only four Asian elected representatives across Auckland making up 1% of elected positions. This is amongst the thousands of Chinese, Indian, Korean, and Japanese people who live in Auckland. It is not good enough.

Auckland currently uses First Past the Post (FPP) for a single vote to go towards who becomes the mayor. STV would give you the ability to rank the candidates in your preference. STV is great because it is designed to give representation to all significant viewpoints in the community in proportion to their level of support. Having a voting system where you list candidates that you do support results in more women, more ethnic diversity, and generally a more diverse result. More voters will feel represented because their votes counted towards the result. Dunedin, Wellington, Porirua and Palmerston North all currently use STV for council elections. Using the FPP electoral system acts as a barrier for minority candidates to be elected.
The Green Party has long been advocating for greater reform of voting systems. We helped lead the way away from FPP for the national election, and we now have Mixed Member Proportional with our two votes (one for electorate, one for party vote). This has increased the diversity of Parliament.
The Green Party would like to see more Single Transferable Vote (STV) voting systems in place around the country, if that is what the local community want after a referendum. Having STV would increase the diversity amongst council, and ensure that councils better represent the communities that they serve.