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Change to voting age not favoured by CDC

Carterton District Council has given its feedback to the Review into the Future for Local Government – and a suggestion of lowering the voting age to 16 has not found favour with the council.

A draft report from the review panel was published late last year suggesting lowering the voting age to 16 and lengthening local government terms to four years instead of three, among other ideas to enhance local democracy in New Zealand.

In a recent report to Carterton councillors, chief executive Geoff Hamilton said he had written a brief submission to the review panel on behalf of the council.

He said on the suggestion of lowering the voting age to 16, the following was submitted:

“With rights come responsibilities. Lowering the voting age to 16 years must also be accompanied with lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 16 as well.

“The youth demographic is the least likely to vote in both local or national government elections, and so lowering the voting age to 16 years would not improve democracy in local government. Lowering the voting age will likely further increase the percentage of voters who choose not to vote.”

The submission said because the review panel was only recommending changing the voting age to 16 for local body elections, this would create significant inconsistencies with the national general elections.

“Furthermore, it was submitted that the timing of local body elections should align with national general elections.

“This would increase voter interest and turnout, and improve local democracy, whilst reducing cost and voter apathy.”

When the draft report was released last year, Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said it “missed the mark in addressing the key issues which are negatively impacting all councils across the country, particularly the funding model, and the confusion between territorial authorities and regional councils”.

“While encouraging our youth and rangatahi to participate in local democracy is important, we first need to focus on increasing engagement with our current voters, as some of our major centres saw voting returns as low as 20 per cent,” Mark said.

Submissions and feedback on the draft report closed last month and will shape the final report, which is due to be delivered in June. – NZLDR

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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