Key Points:

Daniel Massey has just turned 18 so he can legally vote in the local body elections - but he's not going to exercise that right.

The young Tauranga man has decided to flag his right to vote and he's not alone.

A street poll by The Bay of Plenty Times found only 40 per cent of local people had voted.

While aware there was a local election at the moment, Mr Massey, a window cleaner, said he would not be voting before the polls closed at midday Saturday.

"I'm too busy with work," he said.

Apathy, laziness, dislike of the running candidates, lack of knowledge in the issues and not being enrolled to vote were among the reasons given for not bothering to vote.

So far, 22,780 people - or 30 per cent of those eligible - have voted.

This was 5 per cent below the same point in Tauranga's 2004 election.

Western Bay District Council's election returns are even worse, currently standing at 26.6 per cent from 8122 votes cast so far. This compares with 31 per cent at the same time for 2004.

Annika Mahu, 20, had no plans to vote and believed candidates' advertising was a waste of money and resources.

"They never do what they say they are going to, anyway, so what's the point in voting?"

Of the 10 people approached by the Bay of Plenty Times in downtown Tauranga, four said they had or would be voting, while six said they would not.

At the end of 2004 elections, only 46 per cent of Tauranga residents had voted and those between the ages of 21 to 41 had the lowest voting turnout.

In Western Bay, only 40.8 per cent voted in the 2004 elections.

Voting numbers have been getting worse each election, according to Professor Patrick Barrett, Waikato University public policy lecturer.

He said voting turnout had been dropping since the local government was restructured in 1989.

The Electoral Commission was investigating the reasons behind the low numbers.

"This is not unique to New Zealand. Cities around the world seem to be facing a lower trend of voter turnout."

Mr Barrett suggested that people chose not to vote due to a lack of interest in current issues.

Younger people had less tendency to vote, as did Maori and Pacific Islanders and people who had just moved to the area.

"In local government, lots of voting people don't know the candidates.

"We don't know who the candidates are apart from small paragraphs that briefly outline their background and credentials - we are not sure what they actually stand for," he said.

However, Mr Barrett said when an election had a strongly publicised mayoral contest between just two or three candidates, more people voted.

"It's giving people a clear choice, having candidates that stand for clearly different styles," he said.

"To not vote is to concede your right to complain.

"If you don't vote you can't really complain. Are we citizens or subjects? It's preferable to be an active citizen [of a democracy] rather than a passive subject [in a monarchy]," Mr Barrett said.

Anthony Hiku, 40, from Gate Pa had not yet voted but said he was planning to.

"It's good to have a change every now and then," he said.

Karen Summerhays, Environment Bay of Plenty candidate, was on the streets of downtown Tauranga this week, encouraging people to vote.

Stopping passers-by, she asked them, "Need some inspiration to vote?" before handing them a flier.

Ms Summerhays had found there were still a large number of people who had not placed their vote.

"I have been asking them, how about a trip to Burma?," she said.

However, a 37-year-old local who wished only to be referred to as Will, said he would not be using his vote because he did not know much about the issues or the people standing.

This was a common feeling among many people according to Yvonne Tatton, Tauranga city council democracy services manager.

According to Mrs Tatton many people would like to vote but felt they didn't know the candidates or understand what they wanted for the city.

"I think people have been distracted with school holidays and the World Cup. People get their papers and they think, 'I will do that' and other things come up," she said.

Mrs Tatton previously helped as a democracy services manager for national elections but this was her first local election and she felt the one-day voting and postal voting both had their advantages.

"I guess the postal voting gives them more time to think about issues but at the same time it gives them more time allow distractions to come in."

She reminded voters papers could be delivered to the council until midday on Saturday.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES