PSA advice to local government members for the 2016 local government elections


All New Zealanders have the democratic right to participate in local government elections. Working for a council doesn’t affect that right.

All New Zealanders have the democratic right to participate in local government elections. Working for a council doesn’t affect that right. 

Under the Bill of Rights Act, you have the same rights as any other New Zealander. You can stand as a candidate or campaign in support of another candidate or party. But as a local government worker there are a few things you need to be mindful of.

Unlike with general elections there are few agreed guidelines. Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has produced guidelines for all candidates here: www.lgnz.co.nz/home/nzs-local-government/elections/.

It’s important to note that some councils have their own guidelines. They may be stricter than the law requires. If they are, you are not required to abide by them. If you have any doubts, please contact your PSA organiser.

You can campaign in local body elections in a range of ways

You have the right to actively support a political party or a candidate in the elections in your personal capacity, in your own time, using your own resources. This means you can help with fundraising, leaflet drops and any other kind of support.

Remember to keep politics out of your job, and your job out of politics. For example:

Do:  feel free to express your political views through social media, but only in a private capacity and in your own time. In your social media profile, you might choose to make it clear that these are your views as a private individual and not mention where you work. 

Do:  attend public meetings or rallies in your own time (e.g. lunch breaks).

Do:  help with fund raising activities for a candidate or assist with leaflet drops in the community in your own time.

Don’t: use work printers to make campaign leaflets or posters, and don’t use work computers to receive or send political information, even from your personal e-mail account.

Don’t: hold any meetings on your work premises.

Don’t: use or disclose information from your work unless it’s publicly available already (a good test might be whether you can find it on your organisation’s internet site)

Don’t: wear anything that identifies your employer at a public meeting or rally, or if you’re delivering leaflets in the community.

You must exercise judgment about what level of personal participation in political activity is appropriate, particularly if you are a senior employee, work closely with elected members, or work in a small council.

Getting involved in the PSA campaign

The PSA will be running a campaign leading up to the local body elections and will provide campaign resources for workplaces. Feel free to put these up on PSA noticeboards, and circulate to members.  Just remember not to display these in areas where the public has access.

You can stand in local body elections

You can stand for election to local or regional councils, local or community boards, district licensing trusts or district health boards.

Do:  read LGNZ’s candidate guide (www.lgnz.co.nz/home/nzs-local-government/elections/)

Do:  talk to your manager about your plans to stand and how you will both manage any implications for your work. 

Don’t:  campaign on work time or use any work resources. This includes things like not using work printers to make campaign leaflets and not sending out e-mails from a work computer, even if you use your private e-mail account.

Don’t:  hold any meetings on work premises.

Don’t:  use confidential information you’ve learned at work during your campaign. 

What happens if I’m elected?

If you are elected as a councillor or local board member in the local authority for which you work, you must resign from your position as an employee before taking up your position as an elected member.[1] [2] This does not apply to council employees elected to community boards.

If you are elected to a different local authority from where you work, there is no statutory requirement for you to resign. 

Some people manage to juggle local government positions with their work.  Some positions will involve a significant time commitment and it’s worth considering how that will work.

Need further advice?

Get in touch with the PSA Organising Centre on 0508 367 772 for advice, or talk to your PSA organiser.


 

[2] Section 105 Local Government (Auckland Council) Act 2009, www.legislation.govt.nz/act/public/2009/0032/latest/DLM3338696.html