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Fair local elections a step closer

A fairer electoral system for local body elections will be debated in Parliament following the selection of the single transferable vote (STV) option bill in today's ballot.

The bill, in the name of Green MP and longtime electoral reform campaigner Rod Donald, allows councils and communities to change from the current first past the post system to the preferential STV system used in Australia and Ireland. It was one of two Green bills balloted today.

"STV offers many advantages," said Mr Donald. "It encourages positive voting, it ensures more representative councils and minimises wasted votes - and it is much fairer than first past the post.

"It's a natural instinct to vote in order of preference yet under the present system your second vote could cancel out your first choice. Under STV, your second or third choice can still influence who gets to be on your council. That means that more people get a say in who makes the decisions, and it is more likely to ensure that significant minorities are represented in local government.

"I'm sure the fairer STV system would improve the low turnout at local body elections. It would also ensure that mayors could only be elected if they had at least 50 per cent support in the community," said Mr Donald.

In the 13 city council Mayoral contests where there were three or more candidates contesting the election, nine of the 13 winners were elected with less than half of the total valid votes; six with less than 40 per cent; and three with less than 30 per cent.

"Both Labour and Alliance election policies supported the introduction of STV for local government elections, so I am hopeful the bill will be passed," said Mr Donald.

Mr Donald recently received a letter from the Minister of Local Government Sandra Lee saying she will seek Cabinet approval for an STV option in the proposed Local Government Electoral Bill, but that STV wouldn't be available until the 2004 election.

"I think that's too long to wait, so I will be introducing a supplementary order paper to my bill to allow local bodies to introduce STV at the 2001 election if they want to."

Numerous councils including Wellington, Horowhenua, Palmerson North, Lower Hutt, Franklin, Hastings and Dunedin have supported STV in the past. Local Government NZ has endorsed them having this choice.

A comprehensive pamphlet explaining how STV works is available from Rod Donald's office.

Rod Donald MP: (04) 470 6660 or 025 507 183 Gina Dempster, Press secretary: (04) 470 6723 or 021 1265 289

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