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What can local body politicians do to convince us to vote?

Thursday 15th September 2016

Local body elections: that time every three years when cities across New Zealand are saturated with billboards, banners and slogans from people we've almost certianly never heard of. 

Hands up at the Victoria University Mayoral debate when asked who was planning to vote in this year's local elections.

Whether we care or not, the overly-smilely faces on these billboards are a vital part of our democracy. Local elections have huge impact on everything from festivals, concerts and street parties; to drinking water, sewerage, and roading. And all that costs money, paid vicariously with your rent. 

Local elections are a time to vote in mayors, district councils, regional councils and district health boards but, historically, voter turnout is pretty dismal.

When asked who was planning to vote, nearly all of the crowd gathered to watch the mayoral debate at Victoria University raised their hands. As heartening as that seems, this year, only two-thirds of people under 30 are enrolled to vote, but all age groups over 35 have nearly 100 percent enrolment. 

Last time the local elections took place in 2013, only about 40 percent of the population voted compared to over 77 percent at the most recent national elections. 

So why aren’t we turing out to vote for the people who make decisions about the important stuff? 


Sophia, 21

Are you going to vote in the local body elections? Yes.

“I think a lot stuff the candidates say isn’t relevant [to students] a lot of the time. I think that’s why events like the mayoral debate are really good. Still, there are a lot of young people who aren’t at university, maybe working fulltime, who won’t know what’s going on. I only recently starting getting in local body politics. I didn’t really understand it before.”


Simon, 31

Are you going to vote in the local body elections? Yes.

"I think a big part of why young people don’t vote is a lack of visibility. People generally pay more attention to national elections. I’ve been away for the last few years so I actually have no idea who I’m going to vote for or what their policies are. I will have to do a lot of googling. People need to be proactive because it’s local body politics that actually affects us the most, I think." 


Seibah, 20

Are you going to vote in the local body elections? No.

“I’m an international student so I can’t vote but I would if I could. Bus fares are an important issue for me. It’s a little unreasonable that students don’t have a lower fare, especially because some students have part-time jobs to travel to that aren’t necessarily in the CBD. Also, not all students can afford to live in the CBD and have to bus to university. For example, I have a job in Karori and it costs me $4.50 on the bus. Double that for the return journey and that’s almost an hours pay. That’s a lot of money for a student who is only working 4 or 5 hours a week.”


Dharmick, 21

Are you going to vote in the local body elections? No.

“I just don’t really care. I don’t even know what the local body elections are. I would vote in the national elections, though. I think money is an important issue so if there were candidates promising more money to students, I’d probably vote.”


Hana, 20

Are you going to vote in the local body elections? I have no idea.

“I don’t really know when I have to vote by, where to vote and things I need to do. I don’t think about it because I have so many other things to think about like assignments and house costs. I think especially doing the larger papers [at university] and working two jobs to pay for a shitty, mouldly flat means I have other priorities. It's pretty disheartening.”


Christy, 20

Are you going to vote in the local body elections? Probably not this time.

“I’m pretty fresh to the city and I’ve been moving a lot so I don’t have a permanent address to get the election forms sent to. I think what the candidates talk about and promise is too indirect. You won’t see the product of their promises while you’re a student so why would you take time out of your day to vote for them? Like they might promise cheaper bus fares or better flats but it could take years.”  

For more information on how to vote in the local body elections, check out the Elections Commission website

Join the discussion »

“The headline on this story is a joke, right - it's not up to politicians to offer sweeteners to convince young people to vote. Headlines reaffirm suspicions of the "It's all about me" generation. Ask, not what your city can do for you, ask what you can do for your city. ” — Anzac

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