Hamilton City Council chief calls for election reform

5:39 pm on 27 October 2019

Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs is calling for reform of local government elections, which he says are demonstrably broken.

Hand putting a blank ballot inside the box, elections concept.

Photo: 123RF

Mr Briggs said the low voter turnout throughout the country was not acceptable.

The average voter turnout was just more than 41 percent, compared with 42 percent in 2016 and 41.3 percent in 2013.

Hamilton did manage to rise from having the lowest metropolitan centre turnout in 2016, going from 33.6 percent to 39.43 percent this year.

The city council put in more effort than ever into generating interest in the election and encouraging people to vote, including an extensive social media campaign, increasing ballot box locations and hosting a mayoral debate.

But voter turnout still was not good enough, Mr Briggs said.

"While we clawed our way back up the ladder instead of languishing at the bottom, is it good enough to have such a small portion of people in Hamilton vote?

Richard Briggs Chief Executive Hamilton City Council.

Hamilton City Council chief executive Richard Briggs. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

"I just don't think it is. It's not acceptable, not for a city on a massive growth trajectory and with huge challenges in front of it."

He believed the problem was nationwide - rural and urban.

"Across the board, voting numbers generally were poor. That's all there is to it."

Mr Briggs wanted the local government sector to step up and address the issue.

While he did not have a firm view on what needed to change, the problems included dates, the voting system and lack of engagement from young people, he said.

Mr Briggs said local government needed to start thinking about what it could and should be doing collectively to turn around a lack of interest in council business.

He also wanted central government to take an active role in what changes might be needed and how they could be implemented before the next election in 2022.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs