You wouldn’t know it from the general lack of buzz, but local elections are coming up in 7 weeks.
In my opinion, local elections have been set up to be ridiculously over-complicated. I’ve voted in several elections now but still don’t completely understand how it all fits together, so I thought I’d try to explain them here for anyone else who struggles.
The first thing that makes this election complicated is that, if you live in Christchurch, it’s not really one election – there are three seperate elections that happen simultaneously:
- Christchurch City Council
Core responsibilites include 3 waters (potable, waste, and storm), most roads (including footpaths, cycleways, road furniture etc), land-use controls, building regulation, public health regulation, environmental regulation…
- Canterbury Regional Council (sometimes called ECan)
Core responsibilities include running public transport, regional transport planning, managing rivers, erosion, flooding, use of water, land, air and harbour navigation and safety…
- Canterbury District Health Board
Core role of health boards is simply “providing or funding the provision of health services in their district.”
I’ll start with the Christchurch City Council election.
Christchurch City Council
There are three different levels within the Christchurch City Council elections, with us voting for:
- The Mayor;
- Councillors; and
- Community Board Members.
But we don’t just vote as one group – we are divided into a myriad of smaller groups, in this case based on geographic area. So Christchurch is divided into 16 wards. Each ward elects one councillor.
We are also divided into seven Community Board Areas. Each city ward elects two community board members for that ward. The community boards are normally made up of two or three wards joined together. So these boards comprise several community board members, plus the city councillors of those areas.
And on top of all this we also get a vote for mayor.
Candidates are listed here.
Canterbury Regional Council
The Canterbury Regional Council election is a new experience for many of us, as it is the first time in over decade that we have been allowed to vote properly. In 2010 the government sacked the council and inserted their own commissioners to run the ship. The 2010 election was cancelled, as was the 2013 election, with the government deciding it wanted their commissioners to continue running things. Then in 2016 we were allowed to vote for half the council, while the other half was made up of the government appointed commissioners. This 2019 election is the first time since 2007 that the Council will once again be appointed fully by public vote.
Something else that spices up this election is the fact that ECan have just completed a review of their representation, which resulted in a number of changes to the voting process. Some of these were controversial, especially the changes to the boundaries, which have been drawn in such a way that each rural vote is worth more than each urban vote. Some see this as a type of gerrymandering, designed to give the rural areas (which are typically right-leaning) more influence. Others defend it is an unavoidable quirk of our population distribution. Time will tell if it makes a material difference or not.
Again the Canterbury Region is split up into a number of smaller areas (called constituencies) for voting. In Christchurch, each ECan constituency is made up of four city wards:
Each of the seven constituencies elects two councillors. Candidates are listed here.
Canterbury District Health Board
Congratulations if you’ve made it this far – just from that 5 minutes I suspect you’re better informed than half the population out there.
The Canterbury District Health Board election definitely gets the least publicity and media coverage. I’m sure a good chunk of voters just randomly pick from the unknown candidates based purely on the 3 sentence blurb on each one they get with the voting slip.
But at least this one has a simple setup. There are no sub-divisions, no areas, no multiple levels. You just get given a bunch of candidates and you have to vote seven of them in. Candidates are here.
I have a lot of other opinions on how flawed our election setup is, but I’ll spare you for now. I am hoping to do some sort of post describing some of the different candidates’ policies on transport in Christchurch, which is probably more interesting, so stay tuned…