ORC voting change bid fails

Michael Deaker
Michael Deaker
A push by a councillor to change the Otago Regional Council's voting system for the 2016 local body elections has been derailed due to his need to catch a plane.

Under the Local Government Act, councils were required to reaffirm this month the voting system they would use at the next local body election.

The Otago Regional Council had decided before the last election it would continue to operate under the first-past-the-post system for the 2013 and 2016 elections.

However, when it came time to confirm this decision last month, Cr Michael Deaker said councillors needed more information on the voting system options.

On Wednesday, University of Otago Associate Prof Janine Hayward spoke at a council workshop outlining the FPP system and the alternative single transferable vote (STV).

Yesterday, at a finance and corporate committee meeting, Cr Deaker led the discussion proposing the council change to STV.

''Frankly, the time has come for us to make the change,'' he said.

On the basis of the information provided by Prof Hayward and the experience of the Wellington Regional Council's change to STV, he believed it would decrease the instances of voter error and resolve the inconsistency and confusion having the regional council using a system different from the Dunedin City Council and Southern District Health Board.

But Cr Deaker had to leave the meeting early to catch a plane, due to work commitments, so missed the vote on the proposal to change to STV.

The vote of the 10 councillors left at the meeting was drawn five for STV and five against. Under standing orders that meant the status quo - FPP - stood.

Cr Deaker, speaking after the meeting from Christchurch, said he was disappointed and frustrated by the outcome, which he had not anticipated.

''I was deluded in thinking the change would be easily made.''

He still believed STV would significantly advance voter participation and was sorry the committee did not adopt it.

Crs Bryan Scott, Louise Croot, Trevor Kempton and Gretchen Robertson also supported the move to STV.

Cr Scott said it was a more proportional system giving people greater influence on the outcome although he was concerned the region's district councils had historically stuck to FFP.

''It may support voter attendance.''

Cr Kempton said there was clear evidence more people were interested in voting if the system was the same.

Chairman Stephen Woodhead also supported a change, although admitted he had been a long-time supporter of FPP.

He believed the council also had to see if it could address the visibility of the regional council's list on the voting papers.

Opposing the change were Crs Sam Neill, Gerry Eckhoff, Gary Kelliher, Doug Brown and David Shepherd.

The council is now required to advertise its decision and give the public the right to demand a poll on the electoral system if it finds support from 5% of electors.

Cr Graeme Bell was not at the meeting.

rebecca.fox@odt.co.nz

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