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Cablegate: Nz Votes in Local Elections Amid Lack of Excitement

VZCZCXRO6515
RR RUEHNZ
DE RUEHWL #0771 2960320
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 230320Z OCT 07
FM AMEMBASSY WELLINGTON
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4823
INFO RUEHNZ/AMCONSUL AUCKLAND 1509
RUEHBY/AMEMBASSY CANBERRA 5003
RUEHDN/AMCONSUL SYDNEY 0586
RHHMUNA/CDR USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS WELLINGTON 000771

SIPDIS

SIPDIS
SENSITIVE

STATE FOR STATE FOR EAP/ANP
PACOM FOR J01E/J2/J233/J5/SJFHQ

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV NZ
SUBJECT: NZ VOTES IN LOCAL ELECTIONS AMID LACK OF EXCITEMENT

Reftel: Auckland 118

1. (SBU) Summary. Characterized by voter apathy and predictable
results, local government elections were held across New Zealand
over the weekend of October 13-14. The most noteworthy result was
in New Zealand's biggest and most politically important metropolitan
area, Auckland, where the one term centre-left incumbent mayor of
Auckland City was defeated by the center-right candidate. Local
election results are historically no harbinger of national political
results. Therefore, the ruling center-left Labour Party would have
noted Auckland's election of a center-right mayor but it would not
have been excessively troubled by it. End Summary.

Results in Key Races
--------------------

2. (U) Over the weekend, cities and town across New Zealand elected
mayors and local councils. Overall, there were few surprises with
most results tracking pre-election polling and predictions. In
Auckland City, the country's biggest city, incumbent center-left
Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard was ousted by the very man who he
replaced in the previous election, John Banks. The center-right
Banks, a former National Party Minister of Police, regained the
Auckland mayoralty by a very comfortable 10,000 votes. In the
nation's capital, sitting Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast
retained her seat, but lost her deputy Alick Shaw who was voted out
of local government. In Christchurch, former TV personality Bob
Parker rode his strong name recognition to victory.

Voter Apathy a Hallmark of Elections
------------------------------------

3. (U) Most noteworthy in these elections was the low voter turnout.
A record low 42.5% of eligible voters cast votes in this year's
elections, down from 46% three years ago. During New Zealand's last
general election in 2005, eligible voter turnout was 77% (compared
to 60% in the United States in 2004). Local Government New Zealand,
an organization that represents the national interests of all 85
councils of New Zealand, is to investigate the downward trend in
local government voter turnout. For many municipalities that
witnessed the defeat of incumbents, the most oft-heard reason
centered on homeowners' concerns over taxes.

Labour Watchful of Auckland Result
----------------------------------

4. (SBU) As there is little correlation between local politics and a
national politics, these election results cannot be regarded as a
portent for next year's general election (reftel). Labour,
nonetheless, would have watched the Auckland mayoral race with
interest, as Labour has traditionally had strong support in
Auckland. Given that Auckland provides New Zealand's biggest voting
pool, any party that expects to win the general election needs to do
well in Auckland. Labour is currently trailing National in
Auckland, however, with 50.3% of Aucklanders favoring National, and
29% supporting Labour, according to the August Herald Digipoll.

5. (SBU) However, post believes the result in Auckland was driven by
local issues and personality rather than by national politics.
Aucklanders cast their votes for Banks, not out of support for his
center-right political values, but rather for his more authoritative
and forceful personality, characteristics that Hubbard lacked.
Aucklanders were also disenchanted with Hubbard's stand on some
local issues, such as tax increases and the debacle over the
proposed construction of a new sports stadium.

McCormick

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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