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Tim Dower: How much damage can so-called 'extremists' cause in Local Body Elections?

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Fri, 2 Sep 2022, 10:23AM
Photo / File
Photo / File

Tim Dower: How much damage can so-called 'extremists' cause in Local Body Elections?

Author
Kate Hawkesby,
Publish Date
Fri, 2 Sep 2022, 10:23AM

Local body elections are upon us and there's concern at the number of so-called fringe candidates looking to get elected.

Now the club for councils, Local Government New Zealand, is so worried about this, it's launched a campaign to get voters more engaged with the process.

Which sounds a bit like they're saying ‘Hey, make sure you pick one of our approved people.’

And what is a fringe candidate anyway? Who is an extremist?

Go back 25 years or so, and people were calling the ACT Party extreme right wingers; last election they got 10 seats, and these days they talk more sense than a lot of others.

Go back 30 years and people were calling the Greens extreme lefties, some of them still are, but again, last election, they got 10 seats.

Point is, everyone is entitled to have a shot at getting elected, pretty much anyone is entitled to stand.

And when it comes to local bodies, if you stand, you have a fairly decent chance of getting elected.

On average, across the country, the number of candidates per seat last time around was just over two, so if you stand, you've got a 50/50 shot.

Turnouts are the issue with local elections.

Only about 40 percent of us actually bother to vote and rural communities generally go better than the big centres.

So does it matter if a few fringe people sneak onto local bodies, well, yes if they've lied to get in.

But can they do much damage?

Well, potentially, yes, local bodies have big budgets and they're responsible for some pretty important functions.

And maybe if the mainstream parties had taken a little more interest in local politics, they might not be so worried now.

If the so-called extremists start intruding on their turf, they have only themselves to blame.

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