WHY WE NEED SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTES!

By September this year, the Far North District council must decide between 2 alternative processes for the next local government elections in 2022.

Do they vote to keep the status quo, the current First-Past-the-Post electoral ‘race’ or follow the lead of 11 progressive councils last year, and adopt the ‘Single-Transferable-Vote system?

‘STV’  stands  for  ‘Simple To Vote’!  It’s a fairer more democratic system where every vote for councillors, community board members and for the mayor counts.

Families-of-voting-systems-800x531

As Professor Priya Kurian, Political Science and Public Policy lecturer at University of Waikato, points out,  “STV’s ability to better reflect the will of the entire voting population means it’s more likely to produce councils that look like the communities they represent.” [1]  Locals I speak with see a change to STV as well overdue.  It’s common knowledge that in last year’s elections, our current mayor received only 29% of the vote while some elected councillors and community board members ‘won’ only 10 or 11% of the vote.  The votes of the majority of citizens were wasted.TEMPLATE PAGE

Local government is a two-way relationship. We elect our local government leaders to go into battle on issues that matter to us.  Having a more diverse council will lessen the risk of them offending citizens by not understanding their needs and perspectives.   Citizens need to be able to identify with the members of Council and their local Community Board to maintain trust that elected members ‘have got their back.

The system only works well when we trust council and community board leaders to meet our needs and they can trust us to support them.   For our Council whose services are spread thinly over a vast area, support and collaboration with the general public is essential.

Take the current uproar in communities across the Far North about the actions of Far North Holdings Limited!  Furious local citizens of Russell, Opua, and Rangitane view the lack of transparency and consultation over wide-sweeping actions of FNHL as well outside the council mandate they expect.  An apparent disregard for the council’s legislated responsibility to ‘promote the social, economic, environmental and cultural wellbeing of communities in the present and the future’ [2] has grown into distrust of the local community board and our district council and a polarised ‘us v them’ approach.

We know STV is more representative, but will council members be willing to change the system that elected them?  If ego and complacency in the current system prevents councillors from supporting a change from FPP, a request for a district-wide poll is expected from Far North residents.  Its an expensive and labour-intensive option.  Why go to all that expense when it simply needs Council members to pass the resolution in favour of STV?stv flow chart

Author, Jane Banfield is a long-term resident of Paihia, a grandmother and a volunteer in the SEA CHANGE movement (www.seachange.kiwi), set up last year to see transformation within Far North local government to address local climate, environmental and community issues.    In February 2020, Jane and fellow SEA CHANGE volunteer, Andrew Riddell spoke at the  public FNDC meeting to point out the many benefits of a shift to STV. 

[1] Professor Priya Kurian, Political Science and Public Policy lecturer at University of Waikato https://www.stuff.co.nz/waikato-times/opinion/115706549/diversity-key-to-responsive-local-government

[2] 2019 Amendment: Local Government Act

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