How to vote

Local government elections across New Zealand are running from late September to early October. Most people over the age of 18 are entitled to vote in these elections. 

You vote by post 

You vote in your local elections by filling out voting papers sent to you in the mail. You can expect voting papers in the mail between 20 and 25 September, provided you’re enrolled and your details are up to date.

If you didn’t receive an enrolment update pack in the mail from the Electoral Commission by 8 July 2019, it means you’re not enrolled to vote or your details are not up to date. To enrol to vote at the Electoral Commission website, click here

If you enrol to vote after 16 August, you won’t get your voting papers sent to you in the mail. You can still vote, though. You’ll just have to request special voting papers from your local council’s electoral officer. Local Government New Zealand keeps a list of electoral officers on its website. To contact an electoral officer, click here.

Different elections have different voting systems

Most elections use the First Past the Post (FPP) voting system. Under FPP, you vote by putting a tick next to the name of the candidate you are voting for. The candidate with the most votes wins. 

The elections for all district health boards, and some councils, use the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. Under STV, you vote by ranking the candidates in order of preference by putting a number next to their name. “1” for your favourite, and so on. You can rank as many or as few candidates as you like. To find out more about how STV works, click here.

Your voting papers will include instructions on how to vote in your local elections. 

In some cases, you can vote in two areas

If you own property in one electoral area but usually live somewhere else, you can apply to go on the ratepayer roll. This allows you to vote both in the area where you pay rates and in the area where you live.

If this is you, and you want to use Policy Local to find out who’s standing in both of your voting areas, you’ll need to use the ‘reset’ button in the menu to clear your first address so that you can type in another. Please note, however, that this will clear your favourited policies list.

To apply to go on the ratepayer roll, contact the electoral officer for the area where you pay rates but don’t live. 

Why do candidates have tag-lines under their names?

On some candidates’ profiles on Policy Local, you’ll see what often looks like a tagline. This is the candidate’s affiliation, which is essentially an endorsement by the named organisation or group. This can help voters see when groups of candidates are running together as a ticket (although sometimes the affiliation consists of just one candidate). Candidates can put pretty much anything they want down as their affiliation.

Affiliations are specified by candidates when they are nominated for election, along with an official statement, and appear on the official voting papers. They’re optional too, so if you see a candidate without one, it simply means they’ve chosen not to specify one. 

What does local government do?

In each area of New Zealand, several different organisations share responsibility for local government. 

City or district councils (also known as territorial authorities) are responsible for local services such as roads, libraries, parks and council housing. They are also responsible for rubbish and recycling, managing the environment, and regulating new building. There are 12 city councils, and 54 district councils. These councils are governed by elected councillors and a mayor, who is also a councillor. 

Some of these councils have community boards too. Community boards are made up of elected members and work with the council on issues affecting the area which the board represents. 

Regional councils are responsible for environmental management of a larger area than that covered by a territorial authority. Regional councils deal with things like water quality, land use, and pollution. There are 11 regional councils. Regional councils are governed by elected regional councillors. There is no mayor for a regional council, but the councillors elect a chair of the council from among themselves.

In some places, like Auckland, the council is both a regional and a territorial authority, and does all of those functions. Councils of this kind are called unitary authorities. The unitary authorities in New Zealand are Auckland Council, Nelson City Council, Gisborne District Council, Marlborough District Council, Tasman District Council and the Chatham Islands Council. 

Auckland Council is unique. It’s made up of a governing body of councillors, plus 21 local boards, which represent different areas around Auckland. Local boards have direct decision making over local issues, such as libraries, pools, and parks, while the governing body makes decisions affecting the whole city. 

District health boards are responsible for funding and providing health services in their district, including public hospitals and a range of other health services. District health boards are governed by elected members, but the Minister of Health is allowed to appoint up to four further members. There are 20 district health boards. 

You may also be able to vote for a licensing trust. Because of the way these are administered, they do not feature on Policy Local.

To find out more about local government on the Local Councils website, click here.

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