Call to return to first past the post voting

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A newly formed lobby group is calling for a return to First Past the Post voting for Dunedin’s local body elections.

The First Past the Post Working Group held its inaugural meeting last week, convened by Lyndon Weggery, a member of the watchdog Greater Dunedin Action Group, formed after the South Dunedin flood in 2015.

At last week’s meeting, local businessman Pablo Dennison was appointed chairman of the FPP Working Group.

Mr Weggery said the group’s first act had been to launch a petition calling for Dunedin residents to have the chance to vote on their preferred electoral system – the existing STV (single transferrable vote) system or FPP (first past the post).

“We have become aware that a lot of people found the STV (single transferrable vote) system confusing and frustrating at the last election,” Mr Weggery said.

When the STV voting system was first mooted, proponents – including Mr Weggery himself – believed that it would increase voter turnout in local body elections, but the opposite was true, he said.

“It has become clear that voter turnout is declining in Dunedin in 2010 to 45.6% in 2019, and the trend is similar in other centres.

“It’s not surprising that some councils, having tried STV, have decided to move back to FPP, as it is simpler for voters to understand.

“We believe Dunedin, after 17 years of STV, should follow suit.”

The petition was already circulating among the community, and the response had been positive, Mr Weggery said.

“Already, the signatures are flowing in, and we have an enthusiastic team working on it.”

Following timely advice provided by Dunedin City Council Civic team leader Clare Sullivan, the FPP Working Group was focusing on gathering 4674 signatures on the petition, representing 5% of the city’s 93,464 ratepayers.

For a poll result to take effect for the 2022 and 2025 elections, the petition must be received, and the signatures verified by February 21, 2021.

If so, then a poll offering voters a straight choice between STV and FPP must be held by May 21, 2021.