Voters need a clear choice
flurry of late entrants happily put a stop to the early coronation.
Other reaches of the region have less variety.
Upper Hutt’s long-serving Wayne Guppy faces scant opposition. He has a single opponent, Alan Jefferies, to worry about, though at least that is one more than he has sometimes faced. (It is also one more than Upper Hutt’s regional councillor Paul Swain will meet this year – he will be returned to his job unopposed).
This either signals a very contented electorate – or, more likely, simple inertia. Certainly no-one can be surprised if there is low turnout in Upper Hutt this year.
In both Lower Hutt and on the Kapiti Coast, by contrast, there are also six mayoral candidates.
Of course, numbers are only one measure of a meaningful choice. The platforms and personalities of the candidates are another.
It’s long been clear that many voters find local elections offputting. Political scientists say they should rank every candidate on their STV voting form, but picking a single one can be hard enough. Turnout is frequently around 40 per cent, a proportion so low it raises troubling questions about the whole enterprise.
Some people probably feel that the stakes are low. That is understandable but wrong – councils have significant powers, from public transport to regulating new building. The postal vote perhaps also encourages a certain lethargy: people leave the papers lying around instead of mailing them.
Most of all, voters often feel they lack the knowledge to make an informed choice. This may be partly due to their own shortage of spare time and curiosity, but it is also surely a failure of the candidates – to make it plain what they stand for.
All the candidates would do well to give a clear sense of their principles and priorities.
Then it will be up to the voters to listen and choose between them.