Why local government matters

Find out more about the upcoming elections, and print our illustrated guide to election jargon.

Click to download our illustrated guide to election jargon, by Giselle Clarkson

Click to download our illustrated guide to election jargon, by Giselle Clarkson

New Zealand’s a great place to live. Everywhere you look – from pavements to street lights, libraries to parks, drinking water to rubbish collection – local government helps it stay that way.

We believe public services should stay in public hands. But central government is bullying councils to privatise services and sell off assets. This year’s local elections are a turning point, and the PSA wants to make sure good quality public services have a strong future.

It’s the same with public health. Since the National Government came to power, it has slashed $1.7 billion from the health budget, putting services and staff under severe strain.

We need to vote

It’s time to stand together and vote for candidates who’ll support quality local services and an excellent public healthcare system.

Local government and district health board elections help choose the people who make decisions about our communities. Your vote will help select candidates who value keeping public services in ratepayers’ hands – and DHB members who value well-funded, quality healthcare.

What are the crucial issues?

In local and regional government elections, we’re focusing on these areas:

  • Public ownership of public services, including water; social housing and affordable housing; amalgamations and shared services; funding libraries and the rates debate;
  • Local democracy and vibrant communities – like the “four well-beings” and rights of local iwi;
  • Fair pay and conditions for local government employees, including the Living Wage.

In District Health Board elections we’re focusing on:

  • Underfunding – access to services; what happens when needs aren’t met; and staff shortages due to unfilled vacancies;
  • Mental health – services are in crisis across the country;
  • Funding for community providers, such as in-home carers;
  • Lifting the cap on administrative and clerical staffing numbers.

How do I vote?

If you are on the electoral roll at your current address, you will receive your voting papers by September 21. Your papers must arrive at your local council by post or hand by 12 noon on October 8. If you are not on the electoral roll, you can apply to cast a special vote. To register for a special vote, enrol online now, phone 0800 36 76 56 or fill out a form at your local post office. You will then need to contact your council directly to arrange a special vote form.

Votes for mayors, local representatives and DHB members are conducted in different ways depending on each council. Some are First Past the Post, meaning the candidates with the most votes win – others are made using Single Transferable Vote, which is a preferential system. Check localcouncils.govt.nz for more information.

How many people actually vote?

Turnout in local elections has been declining over the past 30 years, but Local Government New Zealand has launched its Vote 2016 programme to encourage more Kiwis to get involved. It’s campaigning to raise awareness of the importance of local government – the kind of services it delivers and how they affect our daily lives.  You can find out more by searching for #VoteNZ2016 on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

How do I get the truth behind the blurb?

It can be tough to figure out what some candidates believe from their official spiels! Check your local paper for candidate meetings or forums, where you will get the chance to put questions to them.  Ask them what they think about privatisation, democracy and funding issues. Are they talking about cost-cutting – and where will those savings come from? Will they protect local services, or concentrate only on rates cuts? Health is a human right, so what will they do to preserve this?

What are the biggest issues in my community?

In Auckland, the Unitary Plan will change the face of the city, but at what cost?  Some candidates want a sinking lid policy on staffing or are promising to cut “back room” staff – which we oppose.

In the Wellington region, councils share services and we want to discourage them from awarding work to contractors. We also want to ensure the council follows through on commitments about paying the Living Wage.

In Christchurch, asset sales remain firmly on the agenda. We want to make sure Christchurch City Council holds onto strategic assets like the airport. The city is still struggling with issues around housing – like affordability, access and quality. Cantabrians need to rebuild local democracy at all costs.

How do I get other people interested?

Reach out to your Facebook contacts. How do they feel about the issues affecting your community?  How many are actually going to vote? Tell them why you think local government matters.
Join local groups like Neighbourly or forums on TradeMe. Share what you think are the most important issues where you live, and which candidates you think support your view. Prepare for a discussion!

Talk to your neighbours. Could you talk local government over a cup of tea or coffee? Could you offer to take their sealed voting papers to the post office?

You can print out our quick guide to understanding candidate's jargon, and if you can't print colour let us know via email and we can send you copies - posters@psa.org.nz.