MEDIAWATCH: The real reason why there is a lack of diversity and low participation in local body elections


Bryce Edwards has investigated why there is such low participation and diversity in local body elections.

I’ve suggested that based on the early pre-enrolment, this could be one of the lowest local body turn outs in recent times.

Why is there such low voter turn out and such a lack of diversity in our local elections?

I think it is because over the years, neoliberal reform of local government has resulted in a system that has been gutted and gelded in terms of actual power and stacked behind complex technocratic boards who ensure that the elected representatives are little more than puppets to masquerade the pretence of power for the pretension of democratic validity.

Our elected officials are limited by a technocrat class of bureaucrats who many times have vested interests or are simply incompetent.

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Look at the fiasco that is the Bus service in Wellington, and the confusion by many Wellington voters as to who actually wields the power to change the appalling mess it’s become.

The technocratic nature most Local Government has been reduced to explains the lack of diversity while a system that is built for the pretence of democratic participation and engineered to limit actual change quickly loses majority support.

If local Government could actually do something and could actually represent the locals living in the area, people would vote.

It doesn’t, so people don’t.

I hope I am wrong about this coming election, but the Pub Politics debate (which was reduced to an out of context comment) summed this issue up best, Phil has managed to gain an extra $9Billion in infrastructure, yet the grinding gridlock most Aucklanders suffer from see nothing of that investment.

People who lose faith that a system can actually benefit them won’t participate in that system. Blaming people for their apathy to validate a rigged casino seems to be missing the point.



  1. Neo liberal managerialism is what has stuffed local Govt. So many Admins and tinpot bureaucrats bought into Roger’n’Ruth’s monetarist dreams that they looked the other way when the wrecking ball swung through this country, the provinces in particular.

    Were Borough Councils really that bad in the bigger cities? Were County Councils in the country really that bad? Anything can be improved, but the wholesale reorganisation of Local Bodies in 1989 had another agenda–privatisation–allowing the penetration of private capital and for profit operators into ratepayers infrastructure. Local assets were sold off, like pensioner flats, which severed a connection with local people and “the Council” which has never been recovered in most cases.

    And there have been changes like political alienation, transience, the decline of post, acceleration of renting, and so on.

    Register, vote, and stand next time I say. Minto for Mayor campaign is a good example of how to do it.

  2. Our country is now seeing the results of several decades of local government being dominated by property developers, business excecutives, real estate agents, country squires and car dealers.
    These results are: urban sprawl, prime agricultural land being turned into yuppie lifestyle blocks, traffic congestion, Wilson Car Parking, poor public transport, locally owned shops put out of business by overseases-owned mega stores, urban decay whilst new mega shopping malls are built elsewhere, dirty streams and rivers, plastic waste everywhere, badly planned and managed wastefills…
    need I go on?
    We need a change in the kind of people who run our local government, but I don’t have much confidence that we will get them.

    • I can only speak for Chch but I do not see any of those types on our council. It is lead by an ex labour MP with a group of left leaning mates . The only think to have grown are the cycle ways the rest of the city has st&bled around looking for a direction.If the council was a business it would be in liquidation by now. zL
      The Labour government want to interfere in the running of the concil and we need strong leaders to stand up to them. We need a more business like attitude and council should sell 49% of its nderperforming assets to private business like Napier did with its port

  3. The 1% percenters have control of NZ and they are gradually screwing us to death.

    High property prices, exorbidant rents, high food prices, poor infrastructure, clogged roads etc do I need to go on ?

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