The voting period for local government elections ended yesterday at 1200hrs. After three months of low octane politicking, that involved surprisingly few candidates and a few grandstanding acts, we now know – more or less – who the new local government Councillors and Mayors are. And as we look back at the elections, two things become notable:
- The big swing to the left in many New Zealand urban areas, possibly indicating distrust over environmental and social issues which have come to the fore in the last few months.
- The very low voter turnout, which once again, is causing renewed calls for changes to how local government elections are conducted. An opinion piece here may shed some clues on why the turnout was so bad.
In Christchurch, less than 40% of eligible voters turned out for the election, which saw Lianne Dalziel returned as Mayor for a second term, comfortably beating the sole opposing candidate John Minto. Former councillor Aaron Keown was also re-elected. Further south, Ashburton Mayor Angus McKay, who was in hot water earlier this year over a failure to consult the community about plans for a bottled water plant taking 40 billion litres per annum of ground water to be sold overseas, was not re-elected. Nelson and Dunedin Mayors Rachel Reese and Dave Cull were re-elected for another three years.
Across Cook Strait, Justin Lester has been elected Mayor of Wellington for the first time. Mr Lester was having a hair cut at the barber’s when news reached him of his victory. A cliff hanger of a race in Hamilton, where at one point there was only 140 votes separating the main Mayoral candidates, means the outcome of the Mayoral race there was not known at the time of this post being written.
Perhaps the big news story is that Labour Member of Parliament and former Minister of Justice Phil Goff was elected Mayor of Auckland. Mr Goff will now resign his Mt Roskill seat in Parliament to focus on the Mayoralty after comfortably beating Vic Crone, a right-leaning candidate by more than 70,000 votes. In a day of election results that tended to favour left of centre candidates, Mr Goff, better known for his more right of centre views, particularly with regards to trade was a notable exception.
In other parts of New Zealand, Meng Foon and Tim Shadbolt have won Gisborne and Invercargill respectively. The controversial Ruataniwha Dam in Hawkes Bay has impacted on how the Hawkes Bay Regional Council was elected, with a significant split showing.