Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Little mandate for new councils

By Seamus Boyer

[email protected]

Celebrations have have taken place this weekend, as council candidates learned of their success in being elected to public office.

Corks have been popped, victory Facebook messages posted.

But is there really that much to celebrate?

Most of the candidates have very little mandate after what was – once again – a decidedly ho-hum response from the voters.

In Masterton voter apathy reached new lows, with just 42 per cent of the people bothering to tick the boxes on their papers.

In Carterton and South Wairarapa it was better, but when nearly one in two eligible voters still shun the process, those elected should be under no illusion that they have been handed a decent mandate.

In Masterton, it means that more than 10,000 people who could have voted, did not.

Couldn’t be bothered, didn’t feel inspired enough, thought it was a waste of time.

That’s not all their fault – a lot of that will come back on the previous candidates and councils, and the voters’ perception that it matters little who they choose, and that nothing much will change.

And it’s not just the voters who are apathetic, there wasn’t enough people putting up their hands to run.

In Masterton there wasn’t even a vote for the mayoralty, no one wants the job.

So while many candidates may still be celebrating their success, it would pay to put it in perspective.

Even for the most popular candidates, roughly only a quarter of the voting population chose them.

Let’s not even pretend that’s any kind of meaningful mandate.

Despite the low numbers, one thing is still just as clear as it always has been.

Those elected now owe it to us to work as hard as they can to ensure our lives are better at the end of their term than they are today.

It’s a pretty simple equation.

And it’s also a huge responsibility and, frankly, a pretty terrifying prospect.

So enough celebrations, you haven’t won Lotto, you’ve only earned the right to work your socks off to ensure our communities prosper.

Do that and maybe more people will vote next time round.


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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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