As votes in Dunedin's local body elections trickle in
slowly, a local government specialist says people need to have
their say or lose the chance to have sway in their community.
''If you don't vote, you lose your chance to have influence
on what happens to your quality of life now and in the
future,'' Massey University planning lecturer Associate Prof
Christine Cheyne said.
Councils were responsible for making decisions on a range of
matters that affected people's daily lives.
''And if you're leaving it to other people to vote, it means
those elected are less likely to reflect you and what you
would like to see happen, and far more likely to reflect a
narrower cross section of the community - typically those
older, affluent and Pakeha.''
A critical issue affecting local body elections was the lack
of information on candidates, she said.
''The candidate profile booklets are an improvement on
nothing, but they're far from sufficient for informing us,
because they are largely ''motherhood and apple pie''
statements, candidates saying what people what to hear, not
talking about their track record and where they really stand
While people could visit vote.co.nz for information on
candidates, and some local media did a good job interviewing
contenders on their views, more quality web-based material
accessible to all voters was essential.
This was especially important for district health board
elections, and parts of the country using the STV electoral
system, such as Dunedin.
Everybody needed to recognise the value of local body
''Elections matter. People need to value their right to vote,
and have a say in the future of their community.''
But central government agencies also needed to value local
government by providing resources to support, and make it
easier for. voters in local elections.
They could do much more, she said.
''For example, there's the electronic-voting pilot in 2016,
but we should have had this now, in 2013. E-voting is well
established in local elections in several countries similar
to New Zealand, so we could have easily achieved this.''
Porirua City Council and Palmerston North District Council
would trial e-voting in 2016 but Prof Cheyne said that did
not go far enough.
''We shouldn't confine the trial to just two areas, I think
it's a reflection of inadequate resourcing. Ideally I'd like
to see it widely used in 2016, and there's plenty of time for
that to happen. It's just a question of the priority given to
local body elections.
''Local councils have a lot of influence over our daily
lives, so it's important to cast your vote; it can make a
People need to post their voting papers by today, or deliver
them directly to the council before noon on Saturday.