Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) is revealing some tips and tricks for voters to get to know candidates ahead of the elections this year.
“Local body elections typically have low voter turnout at about 40 percent compared with central government election which typically get about 80 percent voter turnout,” says LGNZ’s Chief Executive Susan Freeman-Greene.
“We need to do a much better job of making local elections more accessible and engaging.
“It’s great to see more people have put their hand up to run in this year’s election, compared with the previous election in 2019.
“But we’ve heard from many voters that they don’t feel like they actually know enough about the candidates standing.
“Everyone enrolled to vote will receive their voting papers in a couple of weeks. With District Health Boards disestablished this year, voters can just focus on councils.
“This is a timely reminder that while all candidates have bios in the voting papers, it’s important to do your own research into people running so you know how they will work together, represent the community’s views and what their policy positions are.
“Councils are interesting places for elected members because unlike central government, when people are voted in they don’t bring a team with them. It’s very common for Mayors to have to work with councillors who have run against them or lead a council with divergent views.
“That’s the beauty of local government. But for a council to function well, elected members need to be able to have constructive conversations and build relationships,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.
How to get to know candidates
- Policy NZ (https://policy.nz/) is a great tool to learn more about the people running. Candidates voluntarily upload information which includes why they’re standing, the issues they care about and their background. You can view all the candidates running in your local lection and their profiles.
- Candidates are often campaigning at community events, local markets, and other large public and community gatherings. You can also keep an eye on your council’s website or social media pages for Meet the Candidate events. When you meet candidates in person, it can be helpful to ask questions that give you more of an insight into them such as:
- What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your community?
- If elected, what do you hope to achieve by the end of the term?
- What do you think the role of local government is in shaping the future and success of our communities?
- Why are you running this election?
- What do you think is your most important attribute that you see if an asset or contribution around the council table?
- How do you envisage working with others in council -especially those who don’t agree with you?
- What are your thoughts around the role of local and central government in Aotearoa? What could be improved?
- How would you lead your community through challenging times such as natural disasters?
- How do you plan to connect with all parts of their community and ensure their voices are heard?
- Many candidates supply printed brochures about themselves, have a strong social media presence and websites.
- Councils often also have each candidate’s “candidate statement” on their website. It’s usually a 150 word profile. This information is usually what’s sent out with voting papers.
- Locals, especially those in smaller rural communities, often know candidates personally. Having conversations about your local elections and the people running can also be a great way to gain more insights.
“Local government is an exciting place to influence decisions that will have intergenerational impact. So it’s vital that people around the council table represent their community’s interests and that means we all have a job to do by getting out and voting,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.