New Zealand’s mayoral ranks received a boost from women and candidates under 40 years of age in the 2019 local body elections, according to Local Government New Zealand’s analysis of the preliminary results.
As at late afternoon Saturday, five of the mayors qualified as “young elected members”, and include Campbell Barry, Hutt City Council; Nigel Bowen, Timaru District Council; Sam Broughton, Selwyn District Council (incumbent); Aaron Hawkins, Dunedin City Council; and Alex Walker, Central Hawkes Bay District Council (incumbent).
In addition, a quarter of mayors elected in 2019 were women (25 percent), up from 19 percent in 2016.
The preliminary results, which still require the counting of late and special votes, mean exact counts cannot be supplied, early indications suggest many younger candidates were successful in winning seats on community boards and territorial regional councils.
“One of the notable trends our analysis showed is that younger candidates were among the highest polling candidates in their wards, particularly those who stood in metro and provincial councils” said Dr Mike Reid, LGNZ Principal Policy Advisor.
“While we’re still cautious about drawing strong conclusions, I believe the driver behind this reflects what we are seeing in society at large. Youth are really pushing for change on major issues such as climate change because they know their generation that will most acutely feel the effects of these challenges, and standing for council is a means for driving action where it matters.”
The preliminary local body election results painted a mixed picture for voter turnout in the 2019, with some districts and regions showing higher turnout that 2016, while in others the voter turnout fell.
“Overall turnout stood at just over 44 per cent as of late afternoon Saturday, but excluded data from Clutha, Porirua and New Plymouth,” said Dr Reid. “Early indications are that voter turnout in these areas was lower than in the previous election, which may drag on the overall number but we can’t say to what extent at this stage.”
In 2016, overall voter turnout was 42 per cent, and in 2013 it was 41.3 per cent.
“We’d urge caution in attributing the level of turnout to any one factor, such as the lack of online voting options. International data suggests democratic participation at a local level is a challenge across the developed world due to a multiplicity of factors.”