Why I know more about the US Presidency and UK Brexit than my local authority

28 Sep 2016 5:01 PM | Anonymous

Last week's Bulletin featured a story from the New Zealand Herald (Candidates could change voter apathy, 16 September). The story purports to be part of a campaign from Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) to increase the vote.

It described three demographics: young people, ethnic minorities, poor and uneducated as "typically apathetic voters" for staying away from the polls.

This infuriates me. LGNZ knows that, of the 58 percent of the population who did not vote last time, the largest proportion (31 percent) did not vote because they "want to vote but say it's too hard to find the information they need to make an informed decision." Just read this Radio NZ story from 12 September: Young voters feel locked out of local body politics

Me too. I have every sympathy with the young, recent immigrants, and people too poor to have an address for the postal vote to be delivered to, or the uneducated (that's four demographics, as you don't have to be poor to be uneducated or uneducated to be poor). Actually there's a significant category of educated, interested and possibly even influential voters confronted with lists of people we've never heard of, and whose views on important issues we don't know. I've been involved at the fringes of politics at local and central government level, public service and community activities for more than 50 years, and selecting from these lists of random strangers does not encourage me to vote.

In order to "lift voter numbers above 50 percent nationally for the first time since 1998" (LGNZ's campaign objective), instead of insulting us, it might be a good idea for the media and LGNZ to think about how we might become better informed.

There's no point in haranguing us about our duty to vote in the two months after the candidates are announced. We need to know about the big issues facing our electorates well ahead of that.

This would require our mainstream media to overcome its corporate apathy about local New Zealand, and work with LGNZ, the universities and activist groups such as Generation Zero, Grey Power and the PHA, to give us much more in-depth analysis of local issues. That would mean once the candidates are declared we can begin to interrogate where they stand.

Some help need not be too challenging. Just start with a single site where voters can go to find what ward/electorate etc they're in, who the candidates are and a little about them – instead of having to trawl through multiple websites. I'm sure the Minister's changes (see below) are useful, but they won't address my concerns.

Thankfully, Judith Aitken is onto a much more radical solution for the most unnecessarily complicated and ineffectual election of all – DHBs.

Warren Lindberg
Chief Executive
Public Health Association

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