North Canterbury mayors back call to introduce four-year terms

Photo: David Hill / North Canterbury News
Photo: David Hill / North Canterbury News
North Canterbury’s three mayors are backing calls for a four-year council term.

Dan Gordon. Photo: David Hill / North Canterbury News
Dan Gordon. Photo: David Hill / North Canterbury News
Local Government New Zealand has established an electoral reform group to consider changes to increase voter participation and implement four-year terms.

It will be led by Nelson Mayor and former Government minister Nick Smith.

Waimakariri Mayor Dan Gordon said his council supported moving from a three to a four-year term.

‘‘It is not the biggest priority, but it would certainly make a difference.

‘‘It has been long advocated for and the Future for Local Government Review panel recommended it.’’

He said elections were costly and by holding them less often, councils would have more time to implement their work programmes.

Long Term Plans would also likely be moved to four-yearly, instead of every three years, which would take the pressure of council staff, he said.

Marie Black. Photo: Supplied by Hurunui District Council
Marie Black. Photo: Supplied by Hurunui District Council
Hurunui Mayor Marie Black said she also supported four-year terms.

‘‘I never really agreed with it for a long time, but now I see the value, because it is costly to have elections and I think the volume of work and outcomes over a four-year term would be greater.’’

She said councillor remuneration would need to be considered, as four years would be a major commitment for councillors juggling other employment.

‘‘I first came in as a councillor working part-time for Plunket and I was able to juggle work around meetings.

‘‘But you’ve got to be able to do that, so it places some pressures on councillors.’’

Kaikōura Mayor Craig Mackle said four-year terms were needed for central Government, but he also supported local government making the change.

LGNZ president Sam Broughton said a four-year term would ‘‘double the amount of usable time’’ for councils.

He said the first year after an election was spent getting systems in place and for new councillors learning their roles, while the second year was spent working work on Long Term Plans.

‘‘And then the following January you start thinking about the next election.’’

Mr Broughton said indications were the Government was considering having a referendum on four-year terms, which would likely include changing central government terms as well.

‘‘It is unusual around the world to have a three-year term.

‘‘Most countries have a four-year or even a five-year term.’’

The electoral reform group will focus on increasing voter turnout, transitioning to four-year terms, considering the ways people can vote, who should administer local elections and how they are best run.

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said the Government was preparing a Bill on four-year terms, but a final decision would be subject to a binding referendum.

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.