Local Authority Electoral Laws Changes
Important Changes Approved To Local Authority Electoral Laws
Local Government Minister Sandra Lee says Parliament has approved important changes today to local authority electoral laws, so some of the provisions can take effect in time for this year's local body elections.
She said it now only remains for the Governor-General to formally sign off the Local Electoral Act for the changes to become law.
Ms Lee says the Local Electoral Act is "a significant milestone" in the government's on-going programme of local government reform that has been developed in close partnership with the local government sector.
"The Labour-Alliance coalition is committed to modernising and further democratising the local government sector, " Ms Lee said. "Through this particular legislation, we are keeping our election promises to improve the opportunity for and encourage full community participation in local democracy."
Ms Lee said the new Act would maintain all current electoral rights, and adds some provisions that the Government believes will encourage equality of opportunity for candidates standing in this year's local body elections.
She said the new Act will also allow for the use of new technology in the conduct of elections, without the need for constant legislative amendment with every new technological development.
"One change is the introduction of limits to candidates' electoral expenses," Ms Lee said. "Spending limits will now apply to a period beginning three months before the close of polling, in line with current parliamentary election requirements."
"Another change is the provision to give candidates the opportunity to submit profiles about themselves, their policies and intentions if elected," she said. "Profiles will be provided to all electors with their voting documents. This change will help voters to make a more informed choice."
Ms Lee said the new law would allow local authorities and communities to choose the method of voting that best suits their local needs, which could be either the first-past-the-post or the STV ('single transferable vote') method. She said this would help give individuals and communities fairer representation.
"STV, which is commonly known as 'preferential voting', will be available as an option for the 2004 local authority elections, but I emphasise that the decision will be a local one on whether particular communities want FPP or STV voting," Ms Lee said.
Ms Lee said under the new legislation, a local authority will be able to initiate a change of electoral system if it chooses to do so. She said there was now also the ability for citizens to demand a poll on the issue of a change of electoral system, whether or not their particular local authority had proposed a change. The Minister said the result of any such poll would be binding for two electoral terms, so that the electoral system used by a local authority would not change every three years.
"The Government has put the legislation to Parliament this week in order for the significant changes it contains to be in effect for the October 2001 local body elections," Ms Lee said. "These reforms were overdue, and I was delighted that the new Local Electoral legislation was passed at Parliament today. It is a piece of legislation fit for the 21st century."