Mayor elect Hamish McDouall has praised people in the district for the high voter turnout at the local body elections.

Preliminary election results show that the Whanganui District had the highest percentage of voter turnout of provincial local authorities throughout New Zealand.

While some rural local authorities with a smaller population had a higher percentage turnout, 56 percent (17,506) of Whanganui's registered electors voted.

Mr McDouall says the high turnout "is a reflection of the keen interest the Whanganui community takes in Council activities.


"Whanganui should be proud of this statistic. We have traditionally had one of the highest turnouts for local authority elections and it's pleasing that this year is no exception," Mr McDouall said.

"The level of interest in local body politics in provincial New Zealand tends to be much higher than in the metropolitan areas. People in the regions generally feel engaged in democracy with a genuine opportunity to influence and have significantly more of an interest in a wide range of community issues, not only at election time.

"However, the continuing decline in voter numbers is a concern. We need to look at ways to improve local democracy in the future, which could include an option to vote online to make it accessible for younger voters who have grown up in a digital world."

The overall voter turnout throughout New Zealand was 41.3 percent, with the metropolitan areas averaging just 39 percent, provincial areas 44.3 percent and rural areas 48.7 percent.

Local authority election turnout has been declining in many areas of New Zealand since the 1980s. Whanganui's turnout, while one of the highest, reflects this ongoing decline.

Locally the turnout was down 2.4 percent on 2013's 58.5 percent. That in turn was less than the 60.4 percent recorded in 2010.