The Department of Internal Affairs

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Local Government in New Zealand - Local Councils


Voting and becoming a councillor

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Your council's Election Statistics can be found under its profile page, available from:

Who can vote?

You are entitled to vote in the local authority elections held where you live, as well as in the local authority elections held where you own a property - if that is different from where you live. To vote in a local authority election you must be –

  • Enrolled as a parliamentary elector, at an address in the district or city where you live.
  • Enrolled as a ratepayer elector for a property you own that is in a different district or city from where you live.

Information about how to enrol as a parliamentary elector may be found on the Electoral Commission’s website –

For information about how to enrol as a ratepayer elector, contact the electoral officer for the council where you own property.

Who may stand for election?

To stand for election you must be –

  • A New Zealand citizen.
  • Enrolled as a parliamentary elector (this also means you must be 18 or older).

Candidates must be nominated by two electors from that district or region.

Preparing for elections

Before an election councils and communities must decide on the –

  • Electoral system – FPP or STV.
  • Voting system - booth voting and/or postal voting.
  • Representation arrangements – the number of councillors, the boundaries of the wards and constituencies - including Māori wards and constituencies, the establishment of community boards (city or district councils only).

Leading up to elections, the chief executive of a council must prepare a pre-election report. This provides information on the council’s financial position, performance and plans, to promote public discussion at election time.

Electoral systems

The two electoral systems available for councils are –

  • First Past the Post (FPP) – voters tick the names of candidates they wish to vote for. The voter can vote for as many candidates as there are positions to be filled. The candidates with the most votes are elected to council.
  • Single-Transferable Vote (STV) – voters use numbers to rank candidates in their order of preference. A voter would write “1” next to their favourite candidate, “2” next to their second favourite and so on. Voters may rank as many of the candidates as they wish. A quota (determined from the number of valid votes and number of positions) is used to determine who is elected.

The electoral system for a council may be changed through one of the following processes.

  • A council may resolve to change its system. If so, a poll on the decision must be held if 5 percent of the electors of the city, district or region request one.
  • A council may decide to hold a poll on whether the electoral system should be changed.
  • A poll on electoral systems must be held if requested by a petition signed by 5 percent of the electors of the city, district or region.

All these polls are binding on the council.

In 2019 the following councils will use the STV system:

  • Kaipara District Council
  • Tauranga City Council (1st time)
  • Ruapehu District Council (1st time)
  • New Plymouth District Council (1st time)
  • Palmerston North City Council
  • Kapiti Coast District Council
  • Porirua City Council
  • Wellington City Council
  • Wellington Regional Council
  • Marlborough District Council
  • Dunedin City Council

All remaining councils will use the FPP system in 2019.

All district health boards are elected under the STV system.

More information about STV may be found on


Voting systems

Councils may choose to hold their elections using either postal and/or booth voting.

Under postal voting, papers are sent to each voter and returned either by post or by hand to the council’s electoral officer. Under booth voting people cast their votes at polling booths, in the same way as at parliamentary elections.

In 2013, all local elections were held using postal voting and have been since 1989, with the exception of one council in 1992.

Representation arrangements

Regional council members are elected from constituencies (geographic subdivisions of the region).

The mayor of a city or district is elected from the whole of the district or city. Other councillors may be elected in one of the following ways depending on the system adopted by the council –

  • “At large”, this is from the whole city or district.
  • From wards (geographic subdivisions of the city or district).
  • From a combination of “at large” and ward elections – with some members being elected at large and some members elected from wards.

Representation reviews

Reviewing representation arrangements

A council is required, at least once every six years, to review its representation arrangements. It must consider -

  • Whether for city or district council, members should be elected from the whole district, wards, or from a mixture of both on an ‘at large’ basis.
  • Regional council members must be elected from constituencies.
  • The areas of wards and constituencies and their boundaries.
  • The number of members to be elected from each ward and constituency.
  • Whether there should be community boards in a city or district.
  • If there are to be community boards, the number of members of the board, the boundaries of the community and whether the area is to be divided for electoral purposes.

The process is as follows –

  • The council develops a proposal for its representation arrangements.
  • The public has one month to make a submission on the council’s proposal.
  • The council considers the submissions and makes a final decision.
  • People who made a submission may appeal against the council’s final decision.
  • If the council amends its proposal anyone may object to the council’s amended proposal.
  • Where appeals and objections have been lodged, the Local Government Commission considers the appeals and objections and makes a final determination.

Councils will generally publish the results of their reviews on their websites, while the Commission’s determinations are available at Local Government Commission website.

Māori wards and constituencies

Māori wards may be established for cities and districts and Māori constituencies may be established for regions. Similar to the Māori Parliamentary seats, these Māori wards and constituencies establish areas where only those on the Māori Parliamentary electoral roll vote for the representatives. They sit alongside the general wards and constituencies which also cover the whole city, district or region. Those voting in Māori wards and constituencies receive only the same number of votes as anyone else.

Māori wards and constituencies may be established through one of the following processes –

  • A council may resolve to establish Māori wards or constituencies. If so, a poll on the issue must be held if 5 percent of the electors of the city, district or region request it.
  • A council may decide to hold a poll on whether or not there should be Māori wards or constituencies.
  • A poll on whether there should be Māori wards or constituencies must be held if requested by a petition signed by 5 percent of the electors of the city, district or region.

The result of these polls are binding on the council for at least two elections.

More information about reviewing representation arrangements can be found on the Local Government Commission’s website

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