Shortage of council candidates in many areas ahead of election

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Local governments across the country are calling for candidates due to a lack of nominations.

Photo: RNZ

The TUSEN for candidate nominations is this Friday, August 12 at noon, and the voting will run from September 16 to October 8.

But a week after the closing date for candidate applications, many municipalities were still without the bare minimum of candidates needed to fill their vacancies.

Greater Wellington Regional Council had only received one nomination to fill five vacancies for its Pōneke constituency.

The Otago Regional Council had only two candidates for the Dunedin constituency’s six seats and five for all 12 seats.

Neighborhood Southland was in a similar spot with five nominations for its 12 seats.

Many city districts and municipalities also lacked nominations.

The Queenstown Lakes District Council had only received six nominations for the 11 council seats, the Central Otago District Council five, the Rotorua Lakes Council the same and the Nelson City Council only two.

It was a pattern that was reflected in many places in the country.

New Zealand government president Stuart Crosby said there are several factors that deter candidates, including the ugly rhetoric directed against elected officials in recent years.

“At Local Government New Zealand, we are committed to safeguarding elected members – both current and future – to this end, we have had some success changing the electoral law so they don’t address their home about advertising, and there is also the new digital harm legislation emerging that will hopefully help quell some of the more negative elements we see on social media.

“It’s certainly not about restricting free speech, but when there are threats – personal threats – that goes beyond what I think most people would suggest is freedom of speech. That can sometimes be in local government, especially when we’re going through so much change in terms of government policies, whether it’s three waters, resource management reform, etc – these are particularly challenging times and there is a lot of fear in the community that can manifest through elected members. “

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Reward was another factor that deterred candidates, especially from young and diverse communities in rural and provincial areas, Crosby said.

He hoped this was an area the government would look at when discussing local government reform as he was aware of many young freshman councilors across the country who were not up for re-election, which was a loss to their communities. .

But regardless of the pitfalls, it was an important task and people had to raise their hands, Crosby said.

Local government adviser Peter McKinlay, of McKinlay Douglas, said the nature of the job put off many candidates, especially well-qualified.

The job had become tougher and less desirable, especially for those halfway through their careers, he said.

“Firstly, there is a lot of pressure on local government from central government at the moment, and what has happened is that some of the reforms discussed have created a lot of uncertainty about the role itself.

“You then get a number of other factors that come through. One of them is the increasing compliance requirements that are being put on municipalities, for example the different requirements around long-term plans… which are both very burdensome and significantly limit the open decision-making options. If you look closely at the compliance requirements , the work is starting to look more like ticking complicated boxes than making strategic decisions for your community.

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“Another factor is the nature of the work itself. Since the reforms of the late 1980s, no serious attention has been paid to the functioning of councils as genuine governing bodies. The work has changed dramatically in terms of scale and complexity, but no one has the question: ‘What is needed to underpin good governance?’ And right now the governance arrangements for most councils – for reasons beyond the control of the councils themselves – are quite dysfunctional.

“So that in general, if you look at the track and ask the question, ‘Is this really what we want to do?’ more and more often you actually say no.”

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