New Zealand Archive


Local government mergers – in WA and New Zealand

While New South Wales is currently undergoing a process of considering metropolitan council amalgamations, Western Australia has recently reached the unsuccessful conclusion of a similar process – which ended with a number of overwhelming ‘no’ votes in local referendums and an abandonment of the process in February 2015. New Zealand, which already has much larger councils than in most of Australia, is also currently considering a number of council mergers.

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Northland by-election – Winston Peters leading

In addition to the New South Wales state election, on Saturday voters in the New Zealand electorate will be voting for a replacement for National MP Mike Sabin, who resigned in January.

Northland has been traditionally considered safe for the National Party, but the seat is now being contested by New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. A poll yesterday had Peters leading in the seat by a 20% margin. If Peters wins, the National-led government’s majority will become even tighter.

I know it’s late, but I’ve posted a guide to the Northland by-election, which you can read here.


Christchurch East by-election coming up

chcheast3-lab-pA by-election is coming up at the end of the month in the New Zealand electorate of Christchurch East.

The seat has been safe Labour for most of the last century, but things have changed in the area. At the last election, Labour was beaten by National in the party vote, and the area has seen a drop of more than 17% in its population since the 2006 census, in part due to the long-term effects of the Christchurch earthquake of 2011.

The sitting MP, Lianne Dalziel, has retired after 23 years in the Parliament after being elected Mayor of Christchurch. The seat is likely to stay with Labour, but the absence of a personal vote for a Labour MP might make this seat winnable for the Nationals.

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NZ councils up for election


Territorial authorities of New Zealand

As part of my project to cover the 2014 New Zealand general election in more depth, I’ve just completed a Google Earth map of New Zealand’s Territorial Authorities, or local councils.

New Zealand’s local council elections are currently being held by postal ballot, and will conclude tomorrow, on Saturday 12 October. The election will cover elections for New Zealand local territorial authorities, as well as the regions and district health boards across the country.

New Zealand’s north and south islands are covered by 66 territorial authorities: 43 on the north island and 23 on the south island. New Zealand is also covered by 16 regional councils: five of which are the same as the territorial authorities.

I haven’t been able to complete the map of the 16 regions, but will do so in coming days.

Download the Google Earth map of New Zealand local councils here.

The most interesting election taking place in New Zealand is the election for Auckland Council. In the lead-up to the last election in 2010, all of the local councils in the Auckland region were merged together to form a ‘super-city’.

In Auckland (and, it seems, most of the country), national political parties do not contest local elections, but alliances are formed that roughly align with right and left. In Auckland, incumbent centre-left mayor Len Brown is again leading the CityVision ticket, which seems to have the support of Labour and Green Party activists.

Interestingly, while New Zealand general elections are held using proportional representation, most local councils still use ‘first past the post’ to elect their council. Councils can choose between FPP and Single Transferable Vote (STV), which is similar to Australia system of proportional representation using preferences. STV is the only form of PR that works without political parties, and is gradually gaining popularity amongst NZ councils.

In Christchurch, Lianne Dalziel, Labour MP for Christchurch East, has resigned her seat to run for the Christchurch mayoralty. The seat has traditionally been safe for Labour, but the Nationals topped the party vote in the seat in 2011. Christchurch East has experienced a massive population drop since the last census, largely due to the Christchurch earthquakes.

Christchurch East will vote in a by-election on November 30 to fill the seat, and I plan on doing a profile of this seat. We will also be seeing a draft redistribution of New Zealand’s electoral boundaries in November, which I plan on covering as well.


Cunliffe wins NZ Labour leadership off large membership vote

As the Australian Labor Party prepares to be the first political party in Australia to allow its membership to directly elect its leader, the NZ Labour Party has just chosen its new leader: its first elected directly using a similar model to the ALP.

David Cunliffe won the race on primary votes in a three-way race, thanks to a very strong vote amongst the members and affiliated unions, despite winning only a third of MPs on primary votes and just short of 50% of the caucus vote on a two-candidate basis.

The NZ Labour model gives 40% of the vote to members of the party and 40% of MPs (the party’s caucus), with the other 20% going to affiliated unions. Unlike in the UK, those unions mostly cast their votes by decision of their delegates to the Labour conference, with only one union delegating the decision to a vote of its membership. The main difference between this model and the Australian model is that the ALP gives no say to unions, with the other two parts of the vote increased to 50% each.

David Cunliffe won overwhelming majorities amongst the members and the unions. He only won 11 out of 34 MPs, with Robertson winning 16 and Jones winning 7.

This was enough to give him 51.15% of the overall vote, and won him the race.

Primary votesMembersCaucusUnionsOverall
David Cunliffe60.14%32.35%70.77%51.15%
Shane Jones13.15%20.59%11.92%15.88%
Grant Robertson26.71%47.06%17.30%32.97%

While it wasn’t strictly necessary for the result, we also know about the vote after Shane Jones was excluded. Cunliffe even bigger landslides amongst party members and affiliated unions, and almost came back in the vote amongst MPs. If one more MP had voted for Cunliffe instead of Robertson, there would have been a tie.

David Cunliffe67.79%47.06%78.01%61.54%
Grant Robertson32.21%52.94%21.99%38.46%

I haven’t been able to find any information on how the union vote was broken down (ie. how many votes each union holds, how they were cast), or the raw numbers of members who voted (and whether all of the Jones voters expressed a preference between Cunliffe and Robertson).

What’s the lesson for Australia? It shows a possible scenario for a candidate with solid caucus support, but not a majority, to win with members’ support. There is speculation that such a path could be the path to victory for Anthony Albanese. Under the Australian system, Cunliffe would have led with 47% on primary votes but still won a solid victory after preferences. The unions gave him a primary vote victory, but wasn’t necessary for him to beat Robertson.

It also shows how a membership ballot can be far more decisive than a ballot of MPs.

Like Australian Labor over the last decade, NZ Labour has recently been going through conflict between groupings supportive of different party leaders. David Shearer, the outgoing leader, defeated Cunliffe in 2011, and Robertson is considered closer to Shearer. Clearly the 2011 result wasn’t decisive, and Shearer has failed to last until the next election in a similar way to what we have seen in the past with Australian opposition leaders.

If the caucus were the only ones to vote, Robertson would have won – but very narrowly, 18 votes to 16. This would not have been decisive and could well have proven difficult heading into an election year.

Of course it’s possible that Cunliffe will still have trouble with a very divided caucus – but a vote of 60% of the membership (and 68% after preferences) is very solid and will probably be enough to convince MPs on the fence to fall in line, and give him a supportive caucus.

It’s an interesting election to watch as we head into our own Labor leadership election in Australia.


Labour retains Ikaroa-Rāwhiti in NZ by-election

Voters in the New Zealand electorate of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti went to the polls yesterday to elect an MP after the death of Labour MP Parekura Horomia.

Labour retained the seat despite a significant swing against them.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti is a Māori electorate covering the west coast of the North Island from the outskirts of Wellington to Gisborne and the northwestern corner of the island.

As a Māori electorate, Ikaroa-Rāwhiti covers part or all of seven other ‘general’ electorate, with only those Māori voters who choose to be on the Maori roll in that geographic area.

Meka WhaitiriLabour4,36841.73-18.98
Te Hāmua NikoraMana2,60724.90+10.62
Na Rongowhakaata RaihaniaMaori2,10420.10-3.00
Marama DavidsonGreen1,18811.35+11.35
Michael ApplebyLegalise Cannabis1611.54+1.54
Maurice WairauIndependent270.26-1.65
Adam HollandIndependent130.12+0.12

The election result was a reasonable result for Labour: the Labour vote dropped substantially, but this was understandable in the context of a popular sitting MP’s personal vote being lost, and with a stronger field of opponents. Labour will be pleased to have won the seat, and with a comfortable 16.8% margin over the second-placed candidate.

The Mana Party is likely to also be pleased with a 24.9% vote, which is a significant increase compared to 2011. The result was also solid for the Green Party, which has traditionally stayed away from seriously contesting Māori seats.

The Māori Party should be very disappointed with the result. The party holds a number of Māori seats and would have been hoping to expand their representation. A third-place result is a long way short of what they wanted. They will be particularly disappointed to have fallen behind the rival Mana Party, which was a breakaway from the Māori Party in the lead-up to the 2011 election. If the Mana and Māori votes were combined behind a single candidate, they would have defeated Labour.

The results also indicate a serious problem with low voter turnout in the Māori electorates. Māori electorates are meant to cover a similar number of voters to the general electorates. All seventy electorates are estimated to have between 54,000 and 61,000 people who are eligible to vote.

Despite this, there are substantially fewer voters on the roll in each Māori seat than in a general seat, and proportionally even fewer voters who actually cast a vote.

At the time of the 2011 general election, these were the average turnout figures for the 63 general electorates and 7 Māori electorates

 Votes castElectoral rollEligible to voteTurnout
63 general electorates34,02045,04457,34759.32%
7 Māori electorates19,39133,30059,53632.57%

So less than one-third of those eligible to enrol on the Māori roll voted, compared to almost 60% of those eligible to enrol on the general roll.

When you factor in the typical reduced turnout at a by-election, you are looking at a very small number of votes cast. Less than 4,400 votes were cast for the winning Labour candidate yesterday, compared to over 15,000 by the winning candidate in the Auckland Central electorate in 2011.


By-election this Saturday in Ikaroa-Rāwhiti

Voters in the New Zealand electorate of Ikaroa-Rāwhiti go to the polls this Saturday to elect their local MP after the death of Labour’s Parekura Horomia in April.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti is one of seven Māori electorates in New Zealand. In addition to the 63 “general” electorates, a parallel map is drawn with seven Māori seats that cover the entirety of the country.

Every five years, voters with Māori heritage have an opportunity to choose whether they belong to the Māori roll or the general roll, and then electorates are drawn so that all Māori and general seats have equal populations. This process is currently taking place, and will be followed by a redistribution before the 2014 general election.

In addition, of course, voters cast a second ‘party vote’, and these votes are used to elect a further fifty list MPs who represent the entire country.

Ikaroa-Rāwhiti covers the east coast of the North Island, stretching from the Hutt Valley in the south to Gisborne in the north.

The seat has been held by Horomia, a prominent and popular Labour MP, since before the split in the Māori community over the foreshore and seabed legislation in 2004 led to the establishment of the Māori Party.

The Māori Party won four of seven Māori seats in 2005, then five in 2008, before losing one to Labour in 2011 and losing another due to an MP splitting off and forming his own Mana Party.

There is speculation that the performance of either of the two Māori-based parties could have been held down by Horomia’s presence, and could see either the Māori Party or the Mana Party win the seat at the by-election.

Labour won a comfortable lead in the seat in the party votes, with 49% of the vote. This, however, does not necessarily indicate that voters would be unwilling to vote for another party’s candidate in the electorate. In two of the Māori Party’s electorates, Labour won over 40% of the party vote in 2011 while losing the electorate vote.

Labour are considered to be the favourites, but the Māori Party has a strong presence and could be a contender. The left-wing Mana Party is running prominent television presenter Te Hamua Nikora.

This by-election will be rather unusual, due to the nature of the Māori electorates. Seven general electorates lie at least partly within Ikaroa-Rāwhiti – this means that the vast majority of those resident in the territory of the electorate being contested are not eligible to vote in the electorate – including many Māori residents.

This is the first in a series of posts in the lead-up to next year’s New Zealand general election – I am planning to expand the scope of the blog to include a similar guide to the New Zealand election as I have been doing for Australian elections – I’d be interested to know what things people are interested in seeing in such a guide.


Jeanette Fitzsimons stepping down

Via the NZ Greens’ Frogblog, the NZ Greens female co-leader, Jeanette Fitzsimons, has announced this week that she will be stepping down as co-leader at the June national conference. She reveals in her video that already two of her colleagues, Metiria Turei and Sue Bradford, will nominate. As I understand, there is a ballot of local branch delegates, after local branches discuss the candidates and give instructions to their delegates. I’m not sure of the more detailed mechanics, but it will be fascinating to watch this year.

And in what is an interesting line for Australian Greens members to consider, Fitzsimons says:

In other parties, they have a coup in caucus when somebody gets the numbers, and they walk out of caucus and say ‘we’ve got a new leader’, and the members of the party say ‘oh really?’ Well, we don’t do it like that.



How do we elect our leaders? Part one

After the events of the last few weeks further demonstrated the inability of Stephane Dion to remain as leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, Dion announced last Monday that he would resign as soon as the party chose an interim leader. Dion had announced his resignation following the October election, and a leadership convention was planned for May, with three contenders. On Monday 8th, Dominic LeBlanc withdrew and supported Michael Ignatieff, and Ignatieff’s main rival, former NDP Ontario Premier Bob Rae, withdrew on Tuesday, giving room for Ignatieff to be elected interim Leader by the Liberal Party executive in consultation with the caucus on Wednesday 10th December. The convention will still be held in May, but is expected to be a coronation, with Ignatieff solidly in place as Leader of the Opposition or even Prime Minister. The difficulty the Liberal Party had in reconciling its lengthy leadership process with the need to make a quick decisions raises some interesting issues about how political parties elect their leaders. Canadian parties use various methods of allowing their members to have a say in electing members. The Liberal Party elect leaders at a convention that resembles old-fashioned US presidential conventions, where candidates are gradually knocked out until one gets support of the majority. The last convention in 2006 had about 2600 delegates voting at the convention. The NDP, BQ and the Conservatives all use various processes that give all members a vote. The NDP gives 75% of votes to members of the party, and 25% of votes to members of affiliated organisations, which are mainly labour unions. Over 58,000 votes were cast at the last leadership election in 2003. The Conservatives use a weighted system that gives 100 points to each of 308 ridings. The ridings are distributed proportionally according to how the members living in that riding voted. The BQ appears to use a simple “one vote one value” system, and the last leadership election saw about 48,000 members vote. Most Canadian provincial parties also seem to have shifted towards a “one vote one value” system as well. UK political parties likewise use various systems that put the ultimate say largely in the hands of grassroots members while giving some say to Members of Parliament. The British Labour Party uses a system which weights votes so that 1/3 of the vote is cast by members of the constituency parties, 1/3 by members of affiliated organisations (mainly labour unions) and 1/3 by members of Parliamentary Labour Party. In the only contested leadership election in 1994, Tony Blair won 57% of the vote, with a majority in all three parts of the electoral college. The British Conservative Party uses a process whereby candidates face voting by Members of Parliament until there are only two candidates remaining, and then the two proceed to a vote of all grassroots members. In the 2005 election, four candidates nominated. David Davis received the most votes in the first round, but Cameron took the clear lead after the lowest-polling candidate was eliminated. In the members’ vote, almost 200,000 votes were cast, and Cameron won clearly with 67% of the vote. The Liberal Democrats use a straight one-vote-one-value process, although each candidate must be nominated by at least 10% of the parliamentary party. Members vote with a preference ballot. Following the 2006 resignation of Charles Kennedy, 52,000 members voted, with Menzies Campbell winning 44% of the primary vote, being elected on preferences, beating Chris Huhne with 58% of the preference vote. Another leadership election in 2007 saw Nick Clegg beat Chris Huhne by a slim margin of 511 votes out of 41,000 cast. In contrast, Australia and New Zealand politics tends towards members of Parliament deciding leaders. The only exceptions I can find are the NZ Green Party and the Australian Democrats, although only two state Greens parties have official leaders (ACT and Tasmania), so Greens MPs sit in Parliaments in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia without any elected leader. The New Zealand Green Party has two co-leaders, and they are elected by delegates to the national conference of the party. Their constitution requires that one leader be male and the other female. The party’s original leaders, Rod Donald and Jeanette Fitzsimmons, remained in place for the 1996, 1999, 2002 and 2005 elections, and the only recent election took place in 2006 following the death of Rod Donald shortly after the 2005 election. The election was contested by MP Nandor Tanczos, former MP Mike Ward and party members Russel Norman and David Clendon. Due to the fact that four of the six Greens MPs were female, there was a high chance that the new male co-leader would not be an MP, and in the end Norman defeated Tanczos in a preference ballot. Norman became leader outside Parliament and was elected to Parliament to fill Tanczos’ seat when he resigned in mid-2008, and Norman was re-elected at the 2008 election. I was planning on going into what we should do in Australia as far as electing our leaders, but this has gotten too long, so: Tomorrow: what should we do in Australia? What would happen to our politics if grassroots members got to decide who became party leader?