Voters eschew Central Christchurch election

7:04 pm on 6 October 2019

Central Christchurch people have been slower to vote in local elections than those in other parts of the city.

Deon Swiggs billboard in Christchurch.

Deon Swiggs is one of the Central candidates. Photo: RNZ / Anan Zaki

The Central ward's voter return rate is at 13.6 percent compared to other areas which are closer to 20 percent.

Of the Christchurch central ward's 13,699 registered voters, only 1641 people have voted.

The three candidates in the running are sitting councillor Deon Swiggs, Independent Citizen candidate Clive Antony and Labour's People Choice candidate Jake McLellan.

The low voter numbers come after Christchurch's central-ward councillor Deon Swiggs was accused of grossly inappropriate social media messages and insisting on hugs instead of handshakes to people as young as 13.

In the preliminary assessment of the code of conduct complaint against Mr Swiggs, investigator John Matthews concluded that two of the five complaints are material and require full investigation.

Former mayor Garry Moore said voters now have to make a decision over the future of Mr Swiggs as he cannot step down because he is already on the ballot paper.

Historically the central-ward votes have usually been low, but at this stage the Central Ward votes are 2.5 percent lower than the last election in 2016.

Central ward council, as well as community board candidate, Mr Antony, 27, said he wanted to stay away from commenting on the allegations, rather choosing to focus on his own campaign - one which had a strong focus on supporting businesses.

Mr Antony, who founded social media agency - Mates, said his entrepreneurial experience would help grow the city and particularly the business community. He said a major focus would be to deliver for the rate payer by capping the rise of rates.

"There's this rhetoric saying that we need to keep things ticking along. I feel that with everything that has happened in our city, with the earthquakes and shootings ... we need to actually be a bit more bold and aspirational ... about representation, ideas and growth."

Meanwhile, Mr McLellan, also aged 27, said some voters had questioned him about the accusations against Mr Swiggs.

When asked about the low voter turn out and if it could be related to the allegations, Mr McLellan said, "it would hardly be surprising if that's the case".

The Labour People's Choice candidate said his focus was on water, public transport and investing in light rail.

More than 250,000 people have enrolled to vote in Christchurch's local body election.

"This is the opportunity for people to have their say on who represents them for the next three years," Christchurch Electoral officer Jo Daly said.

Electoral Commission advice is to post voting papers no later than ​Tuesday, 8 October​, or hand deliver to your local council by midday on 12 October when voting closes.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs