Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

#WillSheVote? Experts share tips for making sense of Local Body elections

Fifteen years ago Hinekia Fitzgerald earned the right to vote in Local Body elections.

She's just never used it.

That might be about to change.

The Papakura mum is the face of the New Zealand Herald's #WillSheVote? video-led series, which launched on Wednesday.

Her challenge - and ours - over the next week is to untangle the process enough for Fitzgerald to understand what her vote is for, who wants it and why.

The 33-year-old doesn't vote because she can't relate to those seeking her vote and doesn't know how they can help.

The Herald asked Massey University local body election experts Andy Asquith and Andrew Cardow to sit down with Fitzgerald.

Their brief - help Fitzgerald identify the issues that mattered to her, how the candidates can help and translate the sometimes ambiguous messages from those seeking power.

For her part, Fitzgerald, who is raising three children and working full-time, thinks life's pretty good in her South Auckland suburb.

"I'm quite happy where I am, with myself."

But it doesn't take long to learn how much of a role council leaders play in her life, and where she might like them to do things differently.

Using the Vote Local online tool, designed to help voters make sense of the issues and the candidates who want to tackle them, Fitzgerald soon understands more about what matters to her, and what doesn't.

Among issues identified - the council's role in subsidising the cost of playing sport and organising community events, intensification and protecting building standards following the leaky home crisis.

"I know someone that happened to, and that's stayed with me," Fitzgerald said.

Other big decisions for elected representatives - such as whether to sell strategic assets, or support of the City Rail Link - meant little to Fitzgerald.

So far, so good.

Perhaps a bigger challenge was making sense of those who want her vote.

With few candidates openly declaring party affiliation, Fitzgerald needed to learn how to decode their messages to find those who matched her values and concerns, Cardow said.

"People that talk about stuff like communities, public transport, public spaces ... are more on the left."

A platform based around cutting rate increases was more likely to come from those on the right, he said.

"Just really look at the phrases and wording."

The main message though - for Fitzgerald and all of us - was simply to take part, even if that meant "scribbling all over your voting paper" to indicate a protest vote, he said.

Fitzgerald is up for the challenge.

On the nights between now and when polls close, after she's fed the kids and tucked them in bed, she'll be going through the pamphlet that arrived in the mail with her voting papers last week.

"I'm going to look at that and study it."


You can follow Fitzgerald's journey at

Let us know what you think via social media, using the hashtag #WillSheVote?

All the Herald's Local Body coverage is here

Want to know more about the people who want your vote, and why your vote matters? Auckland Council has a website to help

Live in Auckland, Wellington or Palmerston North? Massey University's research unit Design+Democracy Project has developed an online tool helping voters match their values mayoral candidates via this tool

Fitzgerald's enrolled to vote. Are you? Find out here

The deadline for postal voting is next Wednesday, October 5. Ballots can be hand-delivered to libraries until midday on Saturday, October 8. Results will be revealed later that day.

- NZ Herald

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