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Monday 08 November 2010


Proclamations of the Red Queen

5th October 2010

Backgrounder: Auckland Local Elections and STV

Posted by: Craig Young

At the moment, Aucklanders are electing a mayor and twenty councillors in a newly consolidated and rationalised greater city council.

LGBT interests have traditionally been focused on central government in New Zealand. Unlike Canada and Australia, we are a unitary and centralised state and our provincial and municipal councils have jurisdiction over areas like sanitation, recreational activities and other mundane matters of local infrastructure. There have been times when that has not been the case- the most glaring was the headaches that the Hero Parade and Party experienced at the hands of the fundamentalist-dominated Citizens and Ratepayers ticket under the social conservative mayoralty of Les Mills and his deputy, David Hay, son of homosexual law reform opponent Keith Hay. Fortunately, that didn’t last long, and since then, relationships have been more or less convivial. So, why should we be concerned about local body governance?

Auckland’s local body rationalisation began in 2007, when the Clark administration convened a Royal Commission on Auckland Governance. It recommended a grand council of twenty elected representatives, eight at large and twelve from wards.  The new Auckland Council would abolish the prior Auckland City Council, Rodney District Council, North Shore City Council, Waitakere City Council, Manukau City Council, Papakura District Council, Franklin District Council and Auckland Regional Council. Some rural councils objected to their inclusion, while local iwi Ngati Whatua o Orakei objected to the absence of dedicated local representation as tangata whenua of the Tamaki isthmus and Auckland area.

Inexplicably, controversy hasn’t attended the decision to hold the first Auckland local elections under the flawed First Past the Post electoral system, despite the greater equitability and diversity of candidates selected under the Single Transferable Vote electoral system.

What is STV? Single Transferable Vote electoral systems are widely used. They are used for lower house elections in Tasmania, Legislative Assembly elections in the Australian Capital Territory, Legislative Council/upper house elections in Western Australia, Southern Australia, New South Wales and Victoria, Northern Ireland Legislative Assembly elections, Irish Dail (parliamentary) elections and Maltese parliamentary elections. They have the advantage of familiarity for New Zealanders- we use them in hospital board and other municipal elections, for the Dunedin City Council, Kaipara District Council, Kapiti Coast District Council, Porirua City Council and Wellington City Council . It came second in the first indicative referendum on electoral reform in New Zealand, ahead of FPP, in 1992, and is expected to do similarly well at next year’s third electoral reform referendum.

They consist of preferential voting, which requires that one ranks candidates in terms of preferences, and  has the advantage of multiple seat constituencies, which preserves the element of proportionality. Few wasted votes occur in this system, although  it is costly to administer, given the number of preference ranking elimination rounds that may be needed before the final winner is chosen through a  quota system. However, the Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Electoral System (1986) ranked it the second most popular electoral system and especially recommended it for local body elections, given its proportionality and encouragement of ethnic and other diversity. Unfortunately, New Zealand’s relative centralisation has meant that there is less interest in local body proportional representation than at the central government level, although Wellington and its surrounding environs tend to be a hotbed of STV support, past and present.

It would certainly accomodate Ngati Whatua o Orakei concerns, although they should be able to choose whether they want STV or dedicated local body seats as tangata whenua at some future date. STV does privilege demographic concentrations, which would meet their needs as well as our own (and that of fundamentalist Christians, although the homogeneity of Mount Roskill has declined in recent years, thankfully).

Recommended:

New Zealand Government: Auckland Governance: http://www.beehive.govt.nz/feature/changes+auckland+governance

Ngati Whatua o Orakei: http://www.ngatiwhatuaorakei.com

Nicola Legat: “In God We Trust: The Mount Roskillisation of Auckland” Metro 152 (Feb. 1994): 58-63.

Tags: Politics · Religion

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