12 Aug 2022

Local body nomination gaps remain as deadline looms

9:41 am on 12 August 2022

People wanting to stand for local government have just a few hours left to put their name on the list.

Far North District Council

Far North District Council had gaps on all three of its community boards yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Sam Olley

Nominations close at midday but last night, some seats were yet to have any contenders.

Te Tai Tokerau is one region facing that problem

Far North District Council had gaps on all three of its community boards yesterday.

Nobody had put their name down to represent the Kawakawa-Moerewa subdivision, the North Hokianga subdivision or the Whatuwhiwhi subdivision.

Other seats had a single nominee, meaning people could be elected uncontested.

The latest list from Whangārei District Council showed it did not have enough people for the Bream Bay ward, and candidates in some other wards would be uncontested.

Kaipara's latest list showed only one person standing for the Ōtamatea ward, which has two seats.

Northland Regional Council's nominations summary, due to be updated this morning, has had major gaps.

There has been nobody vying for the single Mid North seat, or the two Te Raki Māori ward seats.

Moko Tepania (Te Rarawa, Ngāti Kahu ki Whangaroa), who is running for the Far North mayoralty, is imploring Māori across the motu to stand.

"If you're thinking about it, just do it, just do it. That's the message I'm trying to get out to people. I mean, that was the same for me back in 2019. I actually made the decision two days before and put my nomination in the morning of, and I have no regrets about doing that."

Labour MP Willow-Jean Prime in Select Committee

Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime (Te Kapotai, Ngāpuhi) says life-changing decision to stand for council was made last minute. Photo: ©VNP / Phil Smith

Northland MP Willow-Jean Prime (Te Kapotai, Ngāpuhi) first entered politics in a last-minute dash to the deadline for Far North District Council, nearly 10 years ago.

Prime was "approached the day before nominations closed, having a very short amount of time to make that life-changing decision to stand for council".

"I remember getting my photo taken at 6am that morning and having it filed by lunchtime."

She hoped others would make the move, even in the final eligible hours.

"Perhaps part of the issue here is that people don't necessarily understand what the role is and how they could contribute through that. And I know it's short notice, but I would just encourage people to jump online to read about it. And if they think that that could be their thing - to put the nominations in."

Local government scholar Dr Andy Asquith is among those disappointed by the lack of interest.

"If the pool from which these [representatives] are selected declines, then you're going to have a poorer calibre of councillors and mayors, which is bad for democracy."

There were also flow-on effects, Asquith said.

"Within New Zealand, you've got the added issue of the way that power is distributed in councils. A disproportionate amount of power is in the hands of the chief executive and part of the councillors' role, the governance role, is to keep that power in check."

Bonita Bigham (Ngāruahine, Te Ātiawa), who is the chair of Te Maruata, the national collective of Māori in local government, said if community board seats were not filled, the vacancies would be re-advertised for by-elections, "which can be a costly and time-consuming exercise for councils, but generally, that tends to sort things out".

Chief Electoral Officer Warwick Lampp told Morning Report nominations were coming in much later than at the previous council elections.

"Yesterday across our councils we had more than 320 nominations and I've had lots of phone calls in the evening and this morning already."

Nominations put in near the deadline can easily be processed, but he appealed to prospective candidates not to leave it to the "really last minute" because it would leave no time to get mistakes fixed.

"People have to have their nominations in by midday - and correct by midday. If someone put theirs in with 15 minutes to go and their nominator wasn't on the roll and they didn't have enough time to get it fixed by midday, then too late, they wouldn't be a candidate."

He was optimistic the "late deluge" of nominations across councils would mean enough people will stand.

Candidates cannot nominate themselves - they must have endorsements from two others aged over 18.

Nominations cost $200.

Voting in the postal ballot runs from 16 September to 8 October.