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First past the post could cause mayoral shambles

2 September 2001

First past the post could cause mayoral shambles all over NZ

Green Party co-leader and electoral reform advocate Rod Donald is predicting that minority mayors could be elected to over 30 councils around New Zealand because of the first past the post electoral system.

"This years's local elections could turn into a shambles in many towns and cities with the possibility of some mayors being elected with as little as 11 per cent of the vote," he said.

There are three or more candidates running for mayor in 40 of the 74 local authorities.

"While the chance of a mayor being elected with only 11 per cent support is slim, it is certain that there will be a large number of minority mayors elected this October, with some winning with the support of only one in four voters," said Mr Donald.

In 1998 there were three or more mayoral candidates in 13 of the 15 city council elections. Of these, nine minority mayors were elected, with three winning with less than 30 per cent of the vote - the lowest being Napier with under 24 per cent.

In the 59 district council elections, there were three or more mayoral candidates in 41 of the contests. Of these, 31 minority mayors were elected, with the lowest being in Tasman with less than 25 per cent.

"The problem is that first past the post can't cope with more than two strong candidates. Any more and you end up with a minority mayor and a lot of wasted votes," he said.

"The contests shaping up to be the biggest shambles this year are:

* Wellington City, where seven out of the 14 candidates could win significant support. (Retiring mayor Mark Blumsky was first elected in 1995 with 44 per cent of the vote from a field of 14 candidates);

* Auckland City, where three of the 10 candidates already have high profiles and several more stand to win a respectable number of votes. (Sitting mayor Christine Fletcher was elected from a field of 14 candidates in 1998 with 41 per cent of the vote);

* Christchurch, where there are at least four high profile candidates in a field of 14. (Sitting mayor Gary Moore was elected with only 32 per cent of the vote in 1998, from a field of 14 candidates).

"The solution is preferential voting which guarantees that the winning candidate has a majority mandate rather than being hampered by knowing that most voters chose someone else to be their mayor."

Preferential elections for mayors and single transferable voting for councillors will be available at the 2004 local body elections following the incorporation of Rod Donald's STV Option Bill into the Local Electoral Act.

"I want mayoral and council candidates to declare whether they support replacing first past the post with preferential voting for mayors and STV for councillors at the 2004 elections to help voters decide who they should vote for this year," he said.

ENDS


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