LGNZ calls for an independent review of local government elections

9 October 2022

LGNZ wants to see far more than about four in ten people voting in local elections.

LGNZ ran a multi-faceted campaign to increase the diversity of candidates as well as voter turnout this year, but preliminary results still indicate there is a massive gap to bridge between turnout for local elections compared with central government elections.

“We always knew it was going to take more than one election cycle to turn this around,” LGNZ President Stuart Crosby said.

“To make a real difference, however, it will require a deliberate effort by councils and communities to better engage with each other in the decisions councils are making, so voters feel more connected to local government, as well as making the process of voting easier.  

Preliminary high-level statistics:

  • Women mayors – 34 % up from 30 % in 2019
  • Mayoral turnover – at least 40 % of our mayors are new
  • Total turnout – 36 %, we expect this to increase by about 2-3% once all the ballot boxes used on the last day and special votes are counted.
    • Rural turnout – 45 % down by 7.5%
    • Provincial turnout – 40% down by 6.5%
    • Metro turnout – 36.4% down by 1.4%

“LGNZ wants to work with central government to review how elections can be delivered more consistently and impactfully, including communication, engagement, the practicality of postal voting, and things like access to ballot boxes in more remote parts of the country,” Stuart Crosby said.

“We want to see a short, sharp and independent review that should feed into the Future for Local Government Review as well as the review of Parliamentary Electoral Law,” LGNZ CE Susan Freeman-Greene said.

“Ultimately, we want practical recommendations that are taken on board by the Government so we can make voting much more accessible in the local elections in 2025.

“Councils are making important decisions that will have wide-ranging impacts on future generations. Alongside the voting process, LGNZ will be leading work so councils can incorporate participatory democracy into their decision-making,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.

“More than 30 councils across the country are implementing Māori wards for the first time this year, and that’s a big reason to celebrate,” Bonita Bigham, Chair of Te Maruata, LGNZ’s collective of Māori elected and appointed to governance roles.

“That’s 66 new Māori ward councillors who will be joining the ranks of elected members and making sure that Māori have a strong voice in decisions that councils are making.

“I’m also thrilled to see that there has also been a huge increase in Māori mayors elected around the motu, at least five that we know of compared with just one in the last election.  

“Te Maruata is here to support Māori elected members. We have established Te Āhuru Mōwai, a tuakana-teina support programme. It will provide a culturally safe space for Māori in local government to support and learn from each other through whanaungatanga and wānanga,” Bonita Bigham said.

“It’s clear, following these elections, that we have a lot more work to do to make Aotearoa the most active and inclusive democracy in the world. LGNZ is committed to this and we are looking forward to working with our partners and central government on this,” Susan Freeman-Greene said.