Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Voter numbers down - but still early days

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Voter numbers are down so far in the Rotorua region compared to the last two elections.
Voter numbers are down so far in the Rotorua region compared to the last two elections.

Voter numbers in the Rotorua region are down more than 5 per cent compared with the past two local body elections.

But officials are saying it's part of a trend across the country and are hoping those numbers will rise after what they are promoting as "Vote Day" this Saturday.

Voting for the Rotorua Lakes Council, Lakes District Health Board and Bay of Plenty Regional Council ends at midday on Saturday, October 8, but only 5132 people - 11.1 per cent - have voted as of 6.30pm on Monday.

This is down from 16.59 per cent at the same time in 2013 and 15.21 per cent in 2010.

Rotorua Lakes Council electoral officer Warwick Lampp said it was early days and the numbers would probably end up similar to the 2013 election when 43.79 per cent of eligible voters had their say.

"There has been a slow start across the country, but it will get there," Mr Lampp said.

"I just encourage people to pop their papers back in the post as soon as possible so we get them with plenty of time to spare."

He said the last day to post voting forms would be next Wednesday, otherwise voters would have to drop them off at the Rotorua Lakes Council offices before midday on Saturday, October 8.

The council's deputy electoral officer for Rotorua, Rick Dunn, said he was confident of achieving a better turnout than in 2013.

"The trend we are seeing in Rotorua with regard to voting paper returns is similar to what's happening around the country.

"Given what appears to be a higher than normal level of local interest in council and the elections - going on media coverage and social media engagement on election-related matters - we still anticipate a better voter turnout this year than in 2013."

He said people appeared to be more interested in council matters and hoped that would translate into more people having their say.

"We also anticipate a greater turnout of Maori voters as a result of the higher profile of council prompted by the Te Arawa partnership, the higher number of Maori candidates standing for council and given Te Arawa has endorsed several of those candidates."

Former Rotorua mayor Grahame Hall said he was surprised by the low turnout so far and was not confident of a higher turnout than in 2013.

"But it's not too late. I would encourage everyone to get out there and exercise their democratic right.

"Local government is really important and every single vote counts. But I'm very surprised that with the amount of publicity there would have been a hell of a lot more interest."

The council is also part of Local Government New Zealand's "Vote 2016" campaign aimed at getting a voter turnout of 50 per cent or more.

As part of the Vote 2016 campaign this Saturday has being declared "Vote Day".

Local Government New Zealand chief executive Malcolm Alexander said some regions' voting numbers were up and some were down, but were, in general, tracking as they were in 2013.

"One stand out is Auckland, which is ahead of 2013, and that's encouraging.

"But we have to be careful not to generalise.

"Our goal this year is 50 per cent from a national average point of view and we think that's an achievable number.

"You need to exercise your right to vote, if you don't you have lost your right to criticise if you didn't feel it was important enough to vote in the first place."

District-wide election returns
- Total electors: 46,215
- Total votes as at September 26, 2016: 5132, 11.1 per cent
- September 26, 2013: 16.59 per cent
- September 26, 2010: 15.21 per cent
- September 26: 2007: 14.63 per cent

Overall election returns
- 2013: 43.79 per cent
- 2010: 43.41 per cent
- 2007: 44 per cent
* As at 6.30pm Monday, September 26. Source: electionz.com.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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