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Labour Member’s Bill Supports Local Democracy

The Local Electoral (Abolition of the Ratepayer Roll) Amendment Bill will level the playing field of local democracy by removing the ability for those with multiple properties to vote multiple times, said MP for Ōhāriu Greg O’Connor.

“Local government plays a key role in our democratic system. It gives people a voice in the leadership of their communities. All eligible New Zealanders deserve the right to vote and to have an equal say in local government,” Greg O’Connor said.

“Currently, voting in local government is done through both the residential roll and the ratepayer roll, which gives multiple-property owners and landlords a greater say in our local democracy than renters or single property owners.

“The two-tier voting system of residential and ratepayer electors gives those that own multiple properties in different areas the right to extra votes. This is unfair, and my Bill will end this,” Greg O’Connor said.

While there are only a low number of ratepayer electors in New Zealand, they can have an outsize impact. In one council election in 2016, ratepayer votes were almost 10% of all votes cast.

As another example, in 2016, one individual was reported to have legally voted in eight different Auckland Council local board elections—the area they lived in, and seven other local board areas.

While the practice of voting in multiple electorates was abolished for general elections in the 1890s, this has not been extended to local elections, except briefly when it was removed by Labour in the 1980s before being brought back by National.

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“I am looking forward to the support of all parties to end this archaic practice, which gives property owners an advantage over the rest of the population in the exercise of democracy,” Greg O’Connor said.


Notes to editors:

  • The Bill can be found here.
  • In the 2016 local elections, 9.01% of votes cast in the Thames-Coromandel District Council Mayoral election were ratepayer votes. Higher rates were recorded for some wards and community boards in other areas. Statistics for local authority elections are available here. RNZ reported that one property owner voted in eight different Local Board elections.

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