Local body elections – results as they become known

Voting for the 2019 local body elections closed at midday today. I handed in my voting papers with half an hour to spare. I admit that my voting was a last minute rush job, but I did it.

Reported voting numbers vary but generally seem to be down again. Initial totals for Dunedin:

  • 2010: 52.96%
  • 2013: 43.49%
  • 2016: 45.17%
  • 2019: 42.29%

So possibly the lowest turnout recorded. There will be combined factors, including postal voting, too many candidates that most voters know nothing or very ,little about, and a voting system (STV) that requires ranking of candidates, which is quite complex especially when you know little to nothing about most candidates.

Results will become known later today.


Many results are linked here at electionz.com

Stuff – Local body elections 2019: Who’s in and who’s out in your local government?

Wellington’s mayoral race has turned into a nail biter, with Andy Foster just ahead of incumbent Justin Lester.

With 90 per cent of votes counted, the Sir Peter Jackson-backed Foster is leading Lester by 715 votes.

But, with 5563 last minute and special votes yet to be counted, the mayoral chains could still stay around Lester’s neck for a second term.

A bit of a surprise perhaps, but Lester had some problems with conflicts with Labour party influence.

Phil Goff has retained the Auckland mayoralty, comfortably defeating his main challenger and one-time Labour caucus colleague John Tamihere.

Goff won with a margin of 155,957 to 70,000 votes, beating Tamihere and 19 other candidates.

Not a surprise. I don’t think Goff has been a great mayor, but as with many contests the opposition was weak.

Christchurch mayor Lianne Dalziel has fought the mood for change and won back her job for another three years.

Dalziel has romped home with a clear majority of 44,811 votes in the 2019 local body elections. Her next closest rival, businessman Darryll Park, received 28,260 votes. Veteran activist John Minto was third with 8739 votes.

Also not a surprise.

Sir Tim Shadbolt has now won the Invercargill mayoralty for the ninth time.

Is there no one younger and better in Invercargill? Obviously not standing for mayor.

Paula Southgate is Hamilton’s new mayor, defeating incumbent Andrew King.

Progress results show Southgate got 11,079 votes, a clear majority over second-placed King on 8606 votes.

King mustn’t have been doing enough to retain support of enough voters.

Aaron Hawkins is 35 years old, a vegetarian, cannot drive and often hitch-hikes to work.

He’s also now Dunedin’s mayor.

He’s the first ever to be elected on a Green ticket, party co-leader James Shaw says.

Also not a surprise. It was a generally disappointing field of 14 candidates, with no other standout apart from Lee Vandervis, who led after a number of iterations in the count until transfers from other candidates shifted the lead to Hawkins. Vandervis is back on council, but I think is too abrasive and volatile to be mayor.

Hawkins has earned some credit as a councillor, but also criticism as arrogant and condescending towards newer councillors, and disdainful of policy positions he doesn’t agree with.

In a way it’s a big deal getting a Green party mayor (but outgoing mayor Dave Cull wasn’t far away from Hawkins politically anyway).

A mayor has influence, but only has one vote. The line-up of councillors seems to be quite varied, so Hawkins will have to work hard to get support for what he wants.

As well as a Green mayor there is councillor who stood as a Labour Party councillor (Steve Walker), and an ex Labour MP (David Benson-Pope.

It’s notable that more and more mayors have close political party affiliations. I don’t think that is a good thing. Councils have to lobby Government and often fight against national policies.


Non-elected iwi representatives will have voting rights on Otago Regional Council

With no public engagement that I’m aware of the Otago Regional Councillors have voted to add two non-elected iwi representatives to the council’s policy committee, which includes giving them voting rights.

This looks like an abuse of democracy.

ODT: Ngai Tahu to join ORC today

Ngai Tahu representatives are ready to bring an iwi lens to Otago Regional Council policy-making.

The council is holding an extraordinary meeting beforehand to establish the terms of reference for their appointments.

After a lengthy debate last month, councillors voted seven to three to approach local runaka to appoint two representatives on its policy committee, joining 12 elected councillors.

They will have voting rights and be paid $9957 per year, calculated as 20% of a councillor’s base salary.

Giving voting rights amounting to 1/7 of the council vote (14%) to people who are unelected is a problem to me. There is no indication how they were selected or appointed by Ngai Tahui either.

Cr Michael Laws called the appointment ”undemocratic”.

Council chairman Stephen Woodhead said it was a way of improving the council’s partnership with iwi.

I have no problem with consulting with Ngai Tahu. I have no problem with the capable people appointed – Edward Ellison and Tahu Potiki.

But there has to be democratic ways of improving the council’s ‘partnership’ with any groups.

This may (should) be a prominent issue in the local body elections later this year.

Local Democracy Reporting Service announced

Eight reporters plus a manager will be recruited for the Local Democracy Reporting Service, which will supply news to media.

This has been given $1 million for a one year trial.

RNZ: Publishers, public broadcaster and the public purse back new local news scheme

Publicly funded reporters will be employed by news publishers around the country in a first-of-its-kind scheme unveiled today to address declines in local news coverage. It’s the result of a government-approved collaboration between RNZ, publishers and the government’s broadcasting funding agency.

Eight reporters will be recruited to report local news around the country under a new scheme created by the Newspaper Publishers Association, RNZ and the government’s broadcasting funding agency New Zealand on Air (NZOA).

The Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) will generate news and content available to media outlets including RNZ, the country’s biggest newspaper publishers  – Stuff, NZME and South Island publisher Allied Press – and small local publishers too.

One million dollars to fund the scheme comes from the $6m Joint Innovation Fund for RNZ and NZOA established by the government in last year’s Budget to create “more public media content for under-served audiences” including regional New Zealand.

While public money has bankrolled broadcasting for decades, it’s never before paid for news reporters at privately-owned media companies. New Zealand on Air has only funded broadcast news projects in recent years.

“It has become increasingly clear that New Zealanders want and need more reporting on the issues at home that affect them and the commercial market is finding it difficult to meet these needs,” said NZOA chief executive Jane Wrightson in a press statement.

Is it clear that people want more reporting on local issues? I haven’t seen any calls for this, or evidence of this.

It is probably a good idea, but a challenge will be making local democracy news interesting to read or watch.

Audio: RNZ’s Paul Thompson and Rick Neville of the NPA talking to Mediawatch about the new scheme duration23:02


Provincial climate emergencies going national?

During the week the Canterbury Regional Council symbolically declared a climate emergency. Nelson City Council did the same soon after.

Environment Southland  and Invercargill City Council are considering doing something similar.

And Climate Change Minister James Shaw says that “some MPS” are considering doing it at a national level.

RNZ on Thursday: After Canterbury, Nelson declares climate emergency

Canterbury Regional Council earlier today voted to declare a climate emergency, becoming the first council in the country to do so.

The council said it joins other local governments in Australia, the UK, Canada and the United States in adopting the stance.

“We have no doubt at council that urgency is required – the science is irrefutable and we have for some time now, been responding accordingly,” deputy chair Peter Scott said.

This morning’s vote followed lobbying from the environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion.

While declaring a climate emergency is largely symbolic, members of Extinction Rebellion said it was an important first step towards achieving bigger environmental goals and openly acknowledging the seriousness of climate change.

Councillor Lan Pham said she hoped it had a snowball effect and inspired other organisations around the country.

Three councillors voted against it, saying there were other options to tackle climate change which the council was already pursuing.

So it wasn’t unanimous.

Regional council chair Steve Lowndes is an ordinary member of Extinction Rebellion, and as such declared an interest and did not take part in the council decision.

Lowndes’ interests are likely to have play a part in it going before the council.

Nelson later joined Canterbury in declaring a climate emergency.

A decision was made by the Nelson City Council, after a three-hour debate this afternoon.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese brought the declaration to the table because of the level of community interest, and noticeable environmental changes in the past few years.

She said the region had recently endured natural disasters on a scale she’d never before seen.

Some councillors were nervous about making what they called a symbolic gesture, and its implications for ratepayers.

Efforts to delay the decision were lost eight votes to five, but a decision was finally made 10 votes to three.

Also some opposed.

Stuff on Friday: Southern mayors to consider climate change state of emergency

Southern councils are watching closely the moves made by Canterbury and Nelson to declare a climate state of emergency.

Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the council would be discussing the moves made by Environment Canterbury and Nelson with its councillors in upcoming weeks.

“The Southland Mayoral Forum and their councils are taking climate change seriously and have recently released a report on the likely impact of climate change in Southland,” he said.

Invercargill mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt said it would look into declaring a state of emergency but there were circumstances for Invercargill that needed to be taken into consideration.

“We will look into it but it needs to be looked into properly,” he said.

The effect of a declaration would have on industries such as the Tiwai Aluminium Smelter would need to be taken into consideration, Shadbolt said.

There would be huge celebration and a huge uproar if the smelter was shut down. I don’t know if no energy alternatives to smelting aluminium have been developed yet.

Stuff Friday night: MPs may vote to declare national climate emergency following regional leads

Climate Change Minister James Shaw agrees global warming has created an emergency, and applauded Environment Canterbury (ECan) and Nelson City councillors for taking the step.

And he revealed some MPs are in discussions about taking a similar stance on a national level.

That would require MPs to approve a motion in Parliament, as they have done in Britain and Ireland in the last few months.

The state of emergency isn’t binding and has no legal standing.

So what’s the point?

But Shaw says it does have practical significance.

“It says to council offices you need to respond to this as an emergency.

“And I have to say, my own experience of being in Government over the last 18 months, is it is hard to martial the resources across Government around this overall goal unless you get a political statement that says ‘look the elected members are saying this is so serious that we are actually declaring it as an emergency and therefore we have to organise around it’.”

More than 500 local authorities in 10 countries have adopted the stance which recognises that action on climate change should become a priority.

There is no single definition of what it means, but most regions want to become carbon-neutral by 2050, at the latest.

“For those councils it will be a significant move because it sends a signal to their own communities that they are treating this very seriously.

It means they are talking seriously about it, but it doesn’t mean they are doing anything serious about it.


Iwi seats on Otago Regional Council

The Otago Regional Council has voted in favour of reserving committee seats for Ngāi Tahu. This has been referred to as “exciting” and also as “racist”.

I’m more concerned about “alarming” rates rises.

ODT on Monday (before the vote): Reaction mixed to ORC seats for iwi

The idea of non-elected iwi seats on an Otago Regional Council committee has drawn councillor responses from “racist” to “exciting”.

Cr Michael Laws has blasted the move as an “assault upon democracy”.

“It is so privileged, and so obviously racist, that it calls into question the fundamental principles of democracy in Otago.”

The decision would empower an “unelected minority”.

“It is a recommendation that embraces all the PC nonsense of our age but misrepresents both logic and law in advancing such racial privilege.”

Cr Bryan Scott said the principle of having iwi at the table was “exciting”.

“My personal view is we always need to strive to do better with iwi and this is a way of doing that.”

They would represent two seats out of 14 and all decisions would have to be ratified by the full council, he said.

“Ideally, they can add value and we can discuss things face to face. The outcomes will be better for our community.”

Stuff (after the vote): Otago Regional Council votes in favour of reserving committee seats for Ngāi Tahu

A controversial move to give local iwi two seats has passed, despite one Otago Regional councillor claiming it promotes “racial privilege”.

Councillors voted seven to three in favour of devoting two seats on the council’s policy committee to Ngāi Tahu, a move chairman Stephen Woodhead said was a “win-win”.

“They will look for people with [Resource Management Act] expertise and able to assist us around this governance table.”

Councillor Michael Laws, who represents the Dunstan constituency, criticised the council before Wednesday’s meeting for being undemocratic and advancing “racial privilege” by reserving the seats for iwi.

Deputy chairwoman Gretchen Robertson, who chairs the policy committee, said it was a beneficial move for the council.

“We make important decisions for our community in the space of land, air and water … How can we speak for iwi? We must hear first and face to face.”

Councillor Michael Deaker, who supported iwi representation, said bringing iwi around the table was “lawful, democratic and desirable”.

“We have had dozens of people, mostly North Islanders who probably don’t know where the Dunstan constituency is  … dog-whistled in and [they] have showered us with words like undemocratic, criminal, racist, ‘unethical left-leaning PC control freaks’ … it’s all quite stunning.

Councillor Graeme Bell, who voted against the recommendation, said his Dunstan constituency told him iwi were needed in the room, but should not have voting rights.

He called for Māori candidates to put their names forward in the upcoming local body election.

Cr Ella Lawton supported the motion, but said the process had been “terrible again”.

Lawton proposed a review of the 2003 memorandum of understanding with local iwi, which was adopted following Wednesday’s vote.

Laws said he was opposed to the representation proposal because there had been no consultation and there were financial implications.

“This isn’t some biosecurity emergency like wallabies – this is policy. We should have put out a draft plan and be consulting on it right now and getting public feedback but no, we aren’t going to do that.”

I’m ambivalent. I haven’t really thought much about it and what it might mean. I’m not aware of any public engagement on this.

We get to have our say at the local body elections later this year.

My biggest concern with the ORC is the rampant rate rises – Increase of 26.9% for ORC general rates

Otago Regional Council general rates will jump 26.9% and not be subject to formal public consultation.

That sounds terrible.

A cartoon on the iwi seats is bound to be controversial.

Dene is ex-political editor of the ODT.

‘Localism’ and support for ‘Kiwi community power’

A joint Local Government New Zealand/New Zealand Initiative conference will be held in Wellington today to explore the results of a survey that indicates the majority of those surveyed support a move towards local services being managed and provided by local decision-makers.

From NZ Initiative:

With New Zealanders’ attitudes towards devolved government shifting, many believe now is the time to explore localism.

The majority of New Zealanders believe that:

  • Locally controlled services will be more responsive to local needs (54%)
  • Local government would be more accountable to the locals they live amongst (53%), and
  • Local people would make better decisions based on greater understanding of local needs (52%)

At the top of the list of supported services that should be controlled by local decision-makers was vocational training (52%). This finding will be of interest in the context of the Government’s proposed merger of existing polytechs into a single national body.

At today’s LGNZ/Initiative Localism Symposium, over 130 delegates will hear from local government, business and private sector leaders about how much better New Zealand’s government could be by adopting devolution.

Dr Oliver Hartwich, Executive Director of The New Zealand Initiative, will launch #localismNZ: Bringing power to the people.

This new primer on localism explains the rationale behind localism and responds to commonly heard objections.

He will explain how unusual New Zealand’s centralism is when compared internationally. New Zealand’s councils have limited fiscal autonomy. Their mandate is also much more restricted than local government in other parts of the world.

Number of local government bodies:

  • New Zealand 78 (average size 68,970)
  • Australia 571 (average size 42,026)
  • Switzerland 2,281 (average size 3,673)
  • Spain 8,192 (average size 5,714)
  • Germany 11.473 (average size 7,389)
  • France 35,535 (average size 1,872)

“Now is the time to bring the power and decision-making back to a local level,” says Dr Hartwich. “As more people recognise the absurdities of our centralised system of government and become more curious about the localist alternative, we need to build on this momentum.”

Local Government New Zealand President Dave Cull believes that communities need to be empowered to make decisions that support their local advantages, rather than having flat, top-down rules imposed upon them.

“In many instances, local people are in the best position to make decisions for their communities, not Wellington. For example, having polytechs create pathways to grow local industries, rather than shutting them down and sending our school leavers to the main centres.”

“The current governance and funding methods for local government are backwards – we need to be incentivising healthy competition between regions and sustainable growth, rather than stifling, and in many cases draining our regions of resources.”

The survey only has small majorities supporting more ‘localism’.


Tamihere/Fletcher Auckland mayoralty bid: “Shake it up and sort it out”

As widely indicated since yesterday, John Tamihere has launched a bid for the Auckland mayoralty, alongside current councillor Christine Fletcher. If Phil Goff stands for re-election this will be a challenge to him, especially if it splits the left leaning vote and a credible centre or right leaning candidate also contests the election.

Stuff:  John Tamihere and Christine Fletcher team up to challenge Auckland Mayor Phil Goff

Two-term Labour MP, former talkback host, and social agency leader John Tamihere has launched his bid for the Auckland mayoralty.

Tamihere has teamed up with former National MP and Auckland City Mayor, and current councillor, Christine Fletcher, in an unusual move to campaign with a ready-made deputy-mayor.

Tamihere pledged to “open the books and clean the house”, and said it’s not clear how ratepayers money is being spent.

Tamihere has called for more democratic control over public assets and wants to appoint councillors to the boards of all council-controlled-organisations such as Auckland Transport. That would require a law change.

The only endorsement so far on the campaign website, is from Tamihere’s running mate Christine Fletcher.

After promising yesterday…

There is nothing more on twitter yet, but he has a presence on Facebook:

The launch:

The campaign website: JT For Mayor

1. Open the Books and Clean the House

Aucklanders pay billions in rates and charges, but where does all that money go? Auckland has ended up with the most council staff ever, the biggest wage bill ever – and yet the most out of touch and secretive management ever. I will open all the doors and open all the books. We will find out who the billions are being paid to, what it’s being spent on, and why.

2. Return Democracy to Neighbourhoods

Too much power in our city is controlled by faceless managers in central Auckland. Control of the city must go back into the hands of the people. I will return local resources and decisions to local elected boards and their communities.

3. Bring Public Assets back under Democratic Control

Three quarters of Auckland Council’s assets are controlled by bureaucrats with no accountability. I want all Council owned organisations under democratic control. As a first step I will appoint elected councillors on every Council business board to ensure openness and oversight.

4. Crack down on Waste and Incompetence

Aucklanders deserve accountability and high performance from their Council. I will establish an Integrity Unit to investigate corruption, unacceptable conduct, and incompetence. This unit will report directly to me as your mayor. Aucklanders can be confident that their serious complaints will come to my desk for action.

5. Proper Partnership with Central Government

Aucklanders pay a huge part of the government’s costs. So why are Aucklanders forced to pay an extra fuel tax when no other region does? The present mayor should never have agreed to that. The huge infrastructure pressure on Auckland is the direct outcome of Central Government’s unplanned immigration, and Auckland ratepayers shouldn’t have to pick up the entire bill. As the new mayor representing a third of the country, I will expect a more equal partnership especially with transport and housing.

Cycleways, and more interference from Wellington


I have no idea why traffic lights are being controlled from Wellington. Dunedin mayor Dave Cull, who also heads Local Government New Zealand, has been trying to promote Bringing government back to the people – LGNZ and The New Zealand Initiative start Project Localism.

The increasing number of cycleways and traffic disruption in Dunedin, and a dwindling number of car parks, are not particularly  popular in Dunedin.

The cycleways themselves are not particularly popular either.  From my observations some seem to be rarely used, and others seem to be used only occasionally, although cyclist numbers do seem to have increased a little (from hardly any to bugger all).

Traffic jams being ‘controlled’ from Wellington are also going to be unpopular.

Q+A: Phil Goff on funding infrastructure and free speech

This morning Phil Goff will be interviewed on Q+A.

Goff says that one way of dealing with local government funding problems is to have the GST on rates returned to councils for them to do as they wish with.

On free speech, Goff says that he has a responsibility to ensure Auckland is an inclusive city – by excluding some speakers?

Otago regional rates to rise 21%, then 23%

This is a bit of a shock – ORC plan adopted, rates to rise 21.1%

A 21% rates rise is on the cards as the Otago Regional Council finalises its long-term plan.

But wait, there’s more.

General regional council rates will rise 21.1% in the next financial year and are predicted to rise another 22.8% the year after.

Targeted rates will rise 5.4% in the next financial year and 5.7% the following year.

That means that rates of say $200 now would rise to $330 over four years.

The plan includes about $650 million in spending over the next 10 years and tackles new projects such as increased water monitoring, urban water quality initiatives and better preparing the region for climate change.

The cost of going green?

Also in the ODT today: Plans for $200m hotel complex

That’s plans for a hotel in Queenstown. Probably instead of a proposed hotel inn Dunedin, which once again faced vocal opposition and planning approval difficulties.

The man behind a so far unsuccessful bid for a five-star hotel in Dunedin’s Moray Pl has moved his attention to Queenstown.

An Environment Court appeal over his Dunedin five-star hotel planned for a site across the road from the Dunedin Town Hall was withdrawn last month, but he indicated at the time he was not giving up on the project.

Sounds like he has given up on Dunedin, like developers before him.