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Four Year Terms On Table For Local Elections

A local election overhaul is on the cards with four year terms, the end of postal votes, and a change in who runs the polls all up for consideration.

Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) has set up a group, headed by Nelson Mayor Nick Smith, to consider how best to improve voter turnout.

Smith said that trust in democracy was faltering all over the world and it was "more important than ever" that the decline in voter numbers was tackled.

He also suggested the days of voting in a local election by post could end.

"There are also questions over the viability of postal voting with the decline of postal services and most people doing their business online," he said in a press release.

The LGNZ Electoral Reform Group is now looking to build support for reform from communities, councils and central government.

LGNZ President Sam Broughton said "serious reform" was needed, adding that voters would see more work achieved if council terms were extended to four years.

"Currently, local elections are cumbersome and inefficient compared with the general election.

"We also feel there is too much time and money wasted by having short three-year terms."

Who should administer the local elections is also up for review.

At present, most individual councils hire private companies to conduct local government polling.

But turnout has been in steady decline and elections have been undermined by several reports of people not receiving ballot papers.

In 2022, an unnamed North Island electoral official told RNZ that it was now time for the the Electoral Commission, which runs parliamentary elections, to step in and run local government elections.

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