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LGNZ working to improve voter participation

The Central App

Alexia Anderson

07 June 2024, 5:15 PM

LGNZ working to improve voter participationWork is underway to improve voter participation, something that is needed in Central. PHOTO: File

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is working to improve voter participation, a move Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan welcomes.


LGNZ has established a new group focused on local electoral system reforms that drive greater voter participation and implement four-year terms.



It’s a move Mayor Tim hopes will make a difference across Central, after the district experienced a voter turnout drop of 46.8 per cent at the last election.


He said the previous election had a 56.7 per cent turnout and the national average was 40.4 per cent.


“When there is not a mayoral election, as was the case in Central last time, voter turn-out does tend to drop away. For instance, in the Clutha District there was no mayoral election in 2019 and there was a 45.8% turnout, then in 2022 with a mayoral election there was a 53.4% turnout.”



He said he does not understand why people do not vote in as great a number as general elections, “as what local councils do has a far greater impact on their day-to-day lives”.

 

The LGNZ Electoral Reform Group will be chaired by Nelson Mayor Nick Smith.


LGNZ president Sam Broughton said serious reform of the nation’s local electoral system was needed.


“Currently, local elections are cumbersome and inefficient compared with the general election. We also feel there is too much time and money wasted by having short three-year terms.

 

“Local government does important work and makes long-term decisions on behalf of our communities. It’s important we have a strong local democracy backing that, but we need to get the settings right,” he said.



Four key areas of reform being considered are: increasing voter turnout, implementation and transition to four-year terms, considering the ways people can vote, who should administer local elections and how they are best run.

“The decline in voter participation over the last three decades is a threat to the mandate mayors and councils have to speak up for their communities,” Nick said.

 

“There are also questions over the viability of postal voting with the decline in postal services and most people doing their business online.

 

“It is more important than ever, with democratic values being challenged internationally and growing disinformation on social media, that we refresh our approach to local elections.

 

“This is difficult work as changes to our electoral law are best made by broad agreement.

 

“I will be working directly in this new role with mayors, chairs, councils, and communities around New Zealand on how improvements in our local democracy can best be achieved,” he said.


“I also look forward to engaging with the Government and opposition political parties on building support for positive reform.”