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Ashburton Mayor Backs Shift To Four-Year Terms

A local election overhaul is on the cards with four-year terms and the end of postal voting up for consideration - and both concepts have the backing of Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown.

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

Brown has previously signaled his support for a four-year term.

“I think it’s a good idea and good to see they have set up a task force to look into it.”

Under a three-year term with a long-term plan review landing in the middle, councils have a limited window to set in motion and oversee any direction before elections rolled around again, he said.

As well as extending the council term, Brown said they should look at the long-term plan being reviewed every three years.

“It’s a huge process and the value of it being reviewed every three years is not in tune with the cost and workload.”

Especially when they still go through an annual plan process in the intermittent years, he said.

The days of voting in a local election by post could also end.

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Smith said there are questions over the “viability of postal voting with the decline of postal services and most people doing their business online”.

A shift away from postal voting also had Brown’s support.

“It makes sense in today's age of everything being electronic.

“Some people are sceptical it could get tampered with, but I'm not so sure.

“It will get participation up, making it easier to vote.”

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

At present, most individual councils hire private companies to conduct local government polling.
Turnout has been in steady decline nationwide.

In the last election, only 50.5% of Ashburton’s eligible population voted, which was down from 55.05% in 2019, but remains above the national average of 45.62%.

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