Elections to the City Councils are underway.
Voting papers have gone out, and the last day for returning the ballot papers is by mid-day on October 8.
Local elections are held to choose mayors, councillors, local board members and district health boards members for city councils in the country.
This electoral process presents a once in a three-year opportunity for us to elect people who will be running the municipal governments in our towns and cities.
Councils play a big role in our daily lives. They decide the rates and have a major part to play in the housing and transport sectors of the city. Water supplies, parks and gardens, leisure centres and sports fields are managed by the council.
The local body elections this year will also witness many candidates from the Indian subcontinent and Fiji contest.
This increased presence in the local government electoral process bears a direct co-relation to the increasing population of people identifying themselves as of Indian origin.
Chances of success for these individuals will depend on a combination of factors, the most important of which will be their ability to connect with the local ethnic population.
People enjoying a profile in the community and seen as diligent and conscientious citizens will have an edge over the others.
Factors to consider
It is imperative that they get the people in their areas to exercise their franchise. Voters also have to use their discretion, and not look favourably at candidates just because of their ethnicity. Have they stood by the community in times of need? Are their political affiliations and thoughts consistent over a period of time? Do we genuinely believe in them for wanting to be in the Councils for the right reasons- and not merely using it as a spring board for bigger things?
The deciding factor should be the vision the candidate has for the area. Do their ideas offer something new, achievable and are fiscally prudent or not? Can we trust them to be strong members of the council and not mere pushovers?
The biggest issue plaguing local body elections in New Zealand is the dismal voter turnout. The last elections in 2013 saw a voter turnout of around 41% across the country with Auckland recording a poor 34%. Even more disturbing is the fact that this represented a 15% drop over the elections in 2010.
Compare it to national elections where the turnout is close to 80% and it presents an even sadder state of affairs. Voter apathy to the electoral process is disappointing, and is akin to them shirking their civic responsibility.
We are privileged to live in a democracy which lets us have our say in how the affairs of the country are run. It is our duty to vote in these elections. Taking some time to find out about the candidates, and what they stand for, and matching them with our concerns -will help us make informed decisions on whom we vote for. If we do not vote- we have no grounds to complain when Councils do not meet our expectations.