Marlborough District’s overall voter return is 48.83% of eligible voters, down almost 5% on the 2016 turnout of 53.64%.
By ward, Wairau-Awatere was highest, at 49.21% (4,063 votes), followed by Blenheim at 49.15% (9,417 votes) and Marlborough Sounds at 47.48% (3,134 votes). Nationally, overall turnout was 41.4%, slightly down on 2016.
Marlborough’s Electoral Officer Dean Heiford said he was disappointed Marlborough had gone below the 50% mark, but not surprised.
“There are many factors at play in local elections. If the incumbent mayor and council is thought to be doing a good job overall, that can be a disincentive to vote for some people. If there are few or no ‘hot button’ issues during the election period, turnout can be lower.”
“Marlborough’s population has grown significantly in recent years but newcomers may not feel confident about voting in their new home until they become more settled and get to know the district better. And getting to know your candidates and what they stand for is probably the biggest challenge, wherever you are in New Zealand.”
Of the four new councillors elected, two are women – Thelma Sowman in the Blenheim Ward and Barbara Faulls in the Marlborough Sounds Ward, bringing the total to five women councillors out of 14, just under the national average of 38% female councillors.
David Croad was newly elected in the Blenheim Ward and Francis Maher in Wairau-Awatere. Mr Maher has previously served 15 years as a councillor, from 1998 until 2013.
Mr Heiford, who chairs the Society of Local Government Managers’ Electoral Sub-Committee, said the sub-committee would review the national electoral results and make recommendations to the Government in due course.
“There is no silver bullet to increasing voter turnout but there are many potential improvements that need to be looked at and seriously considered. Local democratic participation is a challenge across the developed world and New Zealand is no different. We do have some unique characteristics of our own – a short electoral term of three years and our reliance on postal voting in local elections are two examples.”