Lower voting age, four-year terms suggested by local govt group

Allowing 16-year-olds to vote, four-year terms and paying local government members more are key recommendations of a group set up to lead major reforms in the local government sector.

The Future for Local Government group has released a tranche of recommendations today.

It wants to see more engagement in the sector, more engagement with voters and Māori and an overhaul of Te Tiriti partnership principles.

Voter turnout in local body elections remains low. Just 36% of eligible New Zealanders voted in the recent council elections.

To encourage a broader range of people to stand for local government, it suggests central government review pay and conditions for councillors.

The report suggests Single Transferable Voting system be rolled out across the country – at the moment it’s only used in a few regions, including Wellington and Nelson. It also wants the Electoral Commission to take back running the elections.

Local elections.

Review chair Jim Palmer says: “The Report looks at how democracy can be strengthened; the roles, functions and structures of local government; the creation of stronger partnerships between central and local government and iwi Māori; and enabling local solutions to local problems.”

However, National Party local government spokesperson Simon Watts rejected the proposals, which he called "just more of the same from Labour – a whole lot of ideological waffle that does nothing to deliver on the core issues facing communities around the country”.

He continued that the nearly 300-page report offers "nothing that will help deliver better infrastructure, housing and transport systems for our cities, regions and communities – which is what Kiwis need from local councils, not more navel gazing from Labour".

National has also rejected the co-government proposals outlined in the report, the party's justice spokesperson, Paul Goldsmith, said.

“The report’s authors are proposing mana whenua appointments to councils and a shift away from one person, one vote. National disagrees – equal voting rights are a fundamental tenet of our democracy," he said.

Goldsmith further added that a lower voting age and an extended term between elections "are not the issues we should be focusing on when local infrastructure and services are at breaking point".

“Voters will have a clear choice at the next election, between Labour which is determined to pursue its co-governance agenda and National which will govern for all New Zealanders and most importantly get things done.”

Submissions to the review are now open.