Four races in this year’s election
The local body election later this year will essentially be four elections in one, with the most interest set to be generated by the new political phenomenon of a Maori ward, whereby five councillors will be elected by Maori roll voters from across the district.
Candidates for the Maori ward will not be encumbered by any need to appeal to a broad electorate. Expect the campaign for these five seats to be highly competitive and laser-focused on the interests of the tangata whenua of Tairawhiti.
This focus will carry through to the 2022-2025 council, where the Maori ward councillors will have high expectations on them to deliver on Maori aspirations for the region, the environment and their rangatahi.
There should be excitement around the prospect of this that ensures a strong field, including young candidates, a sizzling-hot campaign and a good turnout by Maori roll voters.
Overall turnout at local body elections gets a boost when there is a competitive mayoral election. Who will challenge Rehette Stoltz this year? In 2019 she received 10,589 votes while Meredith Akuhata-Brown and Ross Meurant were way back on 3845 and 1578 votes respectively. It was much closer in 2016 when current councillor Tony Robinson got 5136 votes to then Mayor Meng Foon’s 7899 votes.
The new rural general ward (note, the district’s final representation proposal still needs to be approved by the Local Government Commission) involves a shift from four geographically-based rural wards, to two rural councillors being elected by general-roll voters living across the rural parts of the district.
This too will be an interesting and much more competitive race than the separate ward elections tended to be. The issues raised will likely be more focused on regional and national rural concerns, and fewer hyper-local ones, than in previous rural ward elections.
City councillors and candidates will be competing for six seats, down from nine prior to the establishment of the Maori ward. This means the city (general) ward contest will not be as decisive in shaping the council of the next three years. There is also increased potential to see more incumbents miss the cut than has been the norm in recent elections.
The other two big changes for the October 8, 2022 election will be the absence of a hospital board election (DHBs will be disbanded on June 30 as part of major health reforms) and a switch to the Single Transferable Voting system, where voters rank candidates in order of preference.