From rates, roads and rubbish through to civil defence, public health inspections, parks and playgrounds, and very much more, most Kiwis would be hard pressed to make it through a single day without using some facility or service that their council(s) provide. New Zealanders rely on candidates stepping up to represent them on a mammoth range of issues that make their communities tick. With most votes now counted, Taituarā congratulates all local government members who have been elected across the country to do this. Here are some initial observations.

We write with the caveat that the final results will be available by Thursday 13 October 2022. There is a lot to take in, and no doubt the election will be analysed over and over again over the coming weeks and months. 

High turnover across the motu

There are 29 new mayors while 11 incumbent mayors were re-elected, though the numbers could change slightly – see below for example. This means that four out of five of our biggest cities have new leaders at the helm.

One in five elected unopposed

Around 20 per cent of seats were a fait accompli as 119 out of 583 elections were uncontested

Almost a third of Māori wards were uncontested (14 out of 45), although competition was stiffer overall in Māori wards compared with general wards.

The youngest and the most experienced

The youngest councillor aged 20 years old is William Wood who was elected to Palmerston North City Council. 

At Gore District Council, Ben Bell may be the youngest of mayor in New Zealand history – at 23 years of age. Ben Bell won eight more votes than his rival Tracy Hicks. The defeated mayor has applied for a recount following this extraordinarily close result.

By the end of this triennium, Aotearoa New Zealand’s longest-serving and now re-elected councillor Trevor Maxwell will have spent spent over half a century representing his community on Rotorua Lakes Council – this time on one of its newly-formed Māori wards.

Lowest turnout since postal voting began

According to the final results which includes special votes, turnout in the 2022 local elections was 40.44 per cent. 

While the overall level is the lowest since postal voting was introduced in 1989, it is not significantly lower than the previous low of 42.2 per cent turnout recorded in the 2019 local elections.

Lessons learned

The elections would not have been possible without the hard work and professionalism of local government professionals up and down the country. They have done a grand job! Yet with turnout dropping to a new low, an independent investigation into the system of local government elections and representation itself is very much on the cards. This is bound to feed into a shake up of our local government system which is likely to result from the Future for Local Government review which has been underway since April 2021.

We have lots to discuss – what went well and what needs to change. We hope as many local government professionals working in the elections space as possible will be able to join us for our Post-Election Workshop taking place on 6 December 2022. This will be an opportunity to review the election process and set the agenda for the next three years.