LGNZ’s new #Vote2019NZ campaign encourages more New Zealanders to get involved in the Local Authority Elections this October.
Local Authority Election turnout has been declining in many areas of New Zealand since the 1980s. LGNZ’s ten-month #Vote2019NZ campaign, running until the 12 October polling date, aims to lift nationwide voter turnout in local elections and increase people’s engagement with their local council.
The campaign also encourages citizens with strong leadership qualities and a passion for their community to consider standing as candidates themselves.
The # Vote2019NZ campaign is based on domestic and international research about who is voting, who isn’t voting, why they aren’t voting and what will influence them to vote. Measures to build elector turnout will include a strong focus on younger voters.
LGNZ President Dave Cull says local body voter turnout varies significantly across different age groups and geographic areas. LGNZ survey results have shown:
- The total national voter turnout for the 2016 election was 43 per cent.
- The highest voter turnout in 2016 was in the 70-plus age group (89 per cent) and lowest was in the 18-29 age group (34 per cent).
- The main reasons people give for not voting is not knowing enough about the candidates (33 per cent), ‘forgot or left too late’ (23 per cent), ‘not interested’ or ‘too busy’ (each 16 per cent).
- The councils with the highest turnout in 2016 were the Chatham Islands (71 per cent), McKenzie District (64.3 per cent) and Central Hawkes Bay (62.7 per cent).
- Of the Metro districts both Wellington and Auckland has a lift in voter numbers. Auckland saw an increase of 4 per cent and Wellington had an increase of 5 per cent.
New Zealand’s local body voter turnout is lower than a number of OECD countries with similar forms of government, including Ireland, Denmark and Norway – but it is still higher than Australia, England or Canada.
Mr Cull says in order to improve these statistics, the first step is to raise public awareness of the value of local government and the role it plays in the everyday lives of New Zealanders.
“Our aim is to grow citizens’ understanding of the breadth of services delivered each day by local governments across New Zealand, and the impact those services have on their everyday lives. By making that connection, we hope it inspires Kiwis to take a more proactive stance on the issues they care about in their communities,” says Mr Cull.
“Citizens can get involved by voting for their preferred candidate this October, and maybe even deciding to stand as a candidate themselves,” says Mr Cull.
Mr Cull says creating a larger pool of skilled candidates is another key step to improving local democracy and ensuring the value local government delivers to its communities remains high.
“Local government in New Zealand faces major challenges, from environmental issues to major infrastructure replacement, often in the face of demographic change. We need to ensure elected representatives have the abilities, training and diversity of skills to rise to these challenges,” says Mr Cull.
“Ultimately, how well local government performs impacts on how well communities and citizens prosper and succeed both now and into the future,” said Mr Cull.
Mr Cull said successful candidates would be provided with significant support. LGNZ provides elected members and council staff with governance training and guidance through its EquiP professional development programme designed builds a consistent level of capability across the sector.
Mr Cull says the final step is ensuring voters have access to the information they need about candidates standing in their community and about the voting process, including when, where and how they can vote.
“The research shows us there is a significant number of citizens who are interested in the process but don’t vote, or, who want to vote but say it’s too hard to find the information they need to make an informed decision. The #Vote2019NZ campaign will address these issues,” said Mr Cull.
Mr Cull urges New Zealanders to find out more about what their local council is doing in their own community and how they can get involved and have their say in how to shape it.
“Democracy is both a privilege and a responsibility. By participating in the local government process and casting your vote you help ensure it rests on the right shoulders. Our goal is that, for the first time in nearly two decades, local government will be elected by a majority of New Zealanders,” said Mr Cull.
Visit www.vote2019.co.nz for further information.