Nelson City Council has voted to change voting and terms. Photo: File.

Council pushes for changes to voting and terms

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Nelson’s 2022 election is in for a shake up with a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system coming into effect as well as the possibility of a four-year electoral cycle.

On Thursday, Nelson City Council voted to move from the First Past the Post (FPP) to a STV system for any future elections. In an FPP system you tick the candidates you want to represent you – with a total number of ticks allowed for the total number of vacancies.

However, under a STV system, voters can rank candidates in order of preference, rather than simply pick their most preferred candidate for each vacancy.

Mayor Rachel Reese spoke in favour of the change to support increased diversity and proportional representation.

She says, while there was a concerted effort in Nelson at the last election to support greater diversity through encouraging more women candidates to stand, more needed to be done.

“I think we’ve made some progress around New Zealand but we have not made nearly enough, and when I look at the representation of women who are mayors in New Zealand, yes, they are 30 per cent but that’s still not good enough, that doesn’t represent our community.

“I want to see greater diversity and have it continued and sustained. In my view STV is a much fairer system.”

Council will advise the public of the change, but if there is a desire to retain FPP there will be an opportunity to demand a poll through a petition, which must be submitted to council by February 2021.

The decision to change to STV will have the added benefit of reducing confusion for Nelsonian electors in 2022, who currently have to navigate FPP for council elections and STV for District Health Board elections.

Meanwhile, council has also agreed to back a remit to Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) that the electoral cycle for councils be extended from three to four years.

Councillors say that a four-year term would lead to better stability and encourage higher voter turnout. Councillor Rohan O’Neill-Stevens said it would also help voters make better decisions.

“If you’ve got four years with someone particularly useless, you’ll just be more motivated to vote at the end of that (term).

“It encourages people to take a much harder look if you’re going to be dealing with them for a slightly longer period of time.”

Several local authorities have already supported the remit proposed by several North Island councils, and which was to be tabled with LGNZ.

The council’s remit said possible drawbacks include that a four-year term might be a deterrent to potential candidates unwilling to commit to office that long.

The remit will be among others tabled at the LGNZ annual meeting in Wellington on Friday, August 21.

—With RNZ