With just six weeks until the final day of voting, the 2019 New Zealand Local Elections are shaping up to be hugely competitive with more than two candidates standing for every council seat on offer across the country (2,076 candidates standing for the 889 seats).
Reflecting the wide range of issues, debates and aspirations across New Zealand’s 78 District, City and Regional Councils, candidate numbers have varied, from the 14 candidates running for the Dunedin mayoralty, to the 33 candidates standing in Environment Canterbury’s first fully democratic election since 2010, with the number of unopposed mayoral races is the lowest in 10 years.
“The vast majority of the local elections are very well contested, both at the mayoral and councillor level. It’s heartening to see the number and quality of candidates that have put their hand up and said ‘yes, I want to contribute to my community,” says LGNZ President Dave Cull.
“It also appears there are more under 40s standing than ever before, which is great to see. If young people want to see change in our political system, then both standing and voting in local elections is a way to do it. Their voice at the decision-making table is vital, particularly when it comes to long-term issues like climate change.”
Not surprisingly the Auckland Council race is the biggest, featuring 21 mayoral candidates and 52 more contesting the 16 available councillor spots – not including the influential local board seats within Auckland.
Similarly, the big centres of Christchurch (13 mayoral & 46 councillor candidates), Dunedin (14 & 25), Hamilton (8 & 38), Nelson (7 & 31) Tauranga (10 & 42) and Wellington (9 & 35) feature deep fields.
Among the smaller District councils, Far North District Council leads the way. Their residents will be choosing from an 11 strong mayoral field, with a massive 42 candidates running for the 9 other seats at the table. Residents of Thames-Coromandel, Rotorua Lakes, Upper Hutt, Whakatane, Westland, Whangarei, Timaru, Buller, Carterton, Gisborne, Horowhenua and Whanganui also have a wide array of candidates to choose from in their councillor seat contests.
“Local elections are special because unlike national elections, they focus on the services we all use multiple times a day –drinking water, roads, public transport, libraries, parks, sports facilities – the things that make our towns and cities vibrant and put New Zealand among the best places in the world to live.”
Where long-time mayors are standing down, big races have emerged. The departures of Gisborne’s Meng Foon, Opotiki’s John Forbes, Dunedin’s Dave Cull, Waimakariri’s David Ayers, Whakatane’s Tony Bonne and Tasman’s Richard Kempthorne, have thrown the doors open to a wide array of candidates, both existing and former councillors, as well as political newcomers.
Among the Regional Councils, Greater Wellington Regional Council has the widest race, with 45 nominations for their table. Regional Councils, primarily concerned with environmental resource management, flood control, air and water quality, biosecurity, regional parks, and in some cases, public transport, have an important role to play. Horizons, Waikato, Hawke’s Bay and Northland also have two to three times more candidates than roles available. Regional councillors will elect a chair to lead their council post-election.
Contrary to widespread reports, the number of uncontested mayoral seats has fallen, from 10 in 2016, to 6 this year.
“We know that in some regions the electorate opts to change their council composition at longer intervals, which means both their candidate and voter turnout waxes and wanes greatly every second or third election.”
“While there are instances of councillors mayors being elected unopposed, they’re few and far between – this year we have 243 current and new candidates standing for the 61 sets of mayoral chains available.”
“I really encourage candidates to get out there and make themselves known – take clear policy positions, and make them known by getting around your neighbourhoods, sharing information on social media, attending meet the candidate events and also sharing your policy positions with policylocal.nz – so that voters can get a strong understanding of how you believe you can help your community.”
“If you love the place you live, a lot of that has to do with what council is doing, so it’s important you vote in October.”
All candidates are encouraged to inform voters of their policy positions through policylocal.nz, by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org.
Local election voting closes midday on 12 October 2019 – for more information on voting, visit vote.nz.
- Top 3 largest city mayoral races: Auckland (21), Dunedin (14), Christchurch (13)
- Top 3 largest city councillor races: Auckland (52), Christchurch (46), Tauranga (42)
- Top 3 largest district mayoral races: Far North (11), Waimakariri (9), Opotiki (7) & Whakatane (7)
- Top 3 largest district councillor races: Far North (42), New Plymouth (37), Horowhenua (36)
- Top 3 largest regional council races: Greater Wellington (45), Environment Canterbury (39), Otago (28)
- Out of 67 Mayors, 16 are standing down, 6 elected unopposed and a further 45 re-standing for election
- 243 current/new candidates are standing for Mayor
- Out of 822 current members, 191 are standing down, and 56 have been elected unopposed
- 1277 new candidates are standing at this year’s election, with 14 of them elected unopposed