Govt wants power to delay local elections through 2023

The Government must urgently explain why it wants to give itself the power to delay next year’s local body elections limitless times through to 2023, National’s Covid-19 Response spokesperson Chris Bishop and Local Government spokesperson Christopher Luxon say.

“The Government is currently able to adjourn a local election for up to six weeks in a local body election year.

“In a bill introduced to Parliament only yesterday, and now rushed through its first reading under urgency, the Government wants to empower itself to adjourn polling day multiple times without constraint – and not just in an election year, but the year after as well.

“It would mean that the Government could delay every local body election next year, all the way through 2023. No wonder the Minister didn’t mention it in his First Reading speech.

“This would be a major change and a threat to local decision-making – yet Labour are forcing the bill through a shortened select committee process which will allow almost no proper public consultation.

“Granting this power under the cloak of Covid-19 is egregious.

“Local body elections are conducted by postal ballot, not by in-person voting. The Government has ample time to prepare for the 2022 local elections and the existing ability to adjourn them if required due to an Alert Level change.

“What does legislating this draconian and overreaching power now, a year out, imply about Labour’s confidence in their own Covid-19 response?

“The Government is under massive pressure over the Three Waters Reforms and their relationships with councils are already severely strained. This latest proposal will only pour fuel on the fire.

“Councils and communities will rightly reject this move for the assault on local control that it is – especially with Labour ramming it through Parliament under a truncated process.

“New Zealanders won’t accept another attempted power grab from the Beehive.

“National will keep fighting Labour’s attempts to diminish local democracy. We must keep the ‘local’ in local government.”