Make your votes count

The Tribune (NZ) - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT -

As the count­down to lo­cal body elec­tions quick­ens, En­vi­ron­ment Net­work Manawatu is tak­ing this op­por­tu­nity to en­cour­age peo­ple to make their vote count.

Lo­cal gov­ern­ment voter turnout is tra­di­tion­ally low, while lo­cal gov­ern­ment is of­ten seen as unim­por­tant.

How­ever, when it comes to the en­vi­ron­ment, this is far from the truth.

De­ci­sions made by city, district or re­gional coun­cils can and do have a large in­flu­ence on the health of the en­vi­ron­ment.

Lo­cal coun­cils have a strong in­flu­ence over en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pacts be­cause they can set rules about what is per­mit­ted.

Th­ese rules can be tougher than cen­tral gov­ern­ment rules.

For ex­am­ple, cen­tral gov­ern­ment has set the bot­tom line for wa­ter qual­ity as wade­able.

How­ever, in this re­gion the stan­dards are set much higher than this through the Hori­zons One Plan.

Lo­cal coun­cils can also choose to pro­hibit ac­tiv­i­ties that pose un­ac­cept­ably high risks to the en­vi­ron­ment, such as pro­hibit­ing the re­lease of ge­net­i­cally mod­i­fied or­gan­isms or ban­ning frack­ing, even if cen­tral gov­ern­ment is not tak­ing the same ac­tion.

Whether a coun­cil spends cit­i­zens’ rates in a sus­tain­able fash­ion; whether it builds en­vi­ron­men­tal safe­guards into their plans, and more im­por­tantly, whether they im­ple­ment and en­force the rules, all de­pends on who is mak­ing the de­ci­sions. This is where vot­ers come in. If peo­ple want a coun­cil that is proactive and puts en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity high up the pri­or­ity list, then they need to vote for those who are go­ing to do this.

Be­ing ed­u­cated and in­formed could mean tak­ing the trou­ble to con­tact can­di­dates and ask­ing them what they stand for.

By mak­ing an in­formed vote, elec­tors can make a big dif­fer­ence to the en­vi­ron­ment.

Cen­tral gov­ern­ment voter turnout at the 2014 gen­eral elec­tion was over 76 per cent, yet the 2013 lo­cal body elec­tions in Palmer­ston North had a turnout of just 39 per cent.

Imag­ine what a dif­fer­ence could be made to our en­vi­ron­ment if more peo­ple be­came in­formed and en­gaged and voted in the lo­cal body elec­tions.

Postal vot­ing pa­pers ar­rive this week from Septem­ber 16 to 22 for re­turn in time for the Oc­to­ber 8 dead­line.

It is not too late to en­rol. Go to elec­tions.org.nz.

Par­tially funded by re­gional coun­cil rates, this new fish-friendly cul­vert at White­bait Creek is so na­tive fish can ac­cess spawn­ing grounds.

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