From next weekend voters will have the chance to select who they want on Whanganui District Council and the Whanganui District Health Board, but they'll also get to vote on other aspects of local government.

One question Whanganui voters will be asked is which voting system they prefer, First Past the Post (FPP) or Single Transferable Vote (STV).

FPP is used in Whanganui and is where voters indicate on a ballot their candidate of choice. The candidate who receives the most votes wins.

STV has voters rank candidates in order of their most preferred candidate. If a candidate achieves the quota, they are elected and any surplus votes are transferred to the other candidates in proportion to the voter's stated preferences.


The poll is binding and will determine the method used in the next local body elections in 2022.

A petition calling for a referendum on Whanganui's voting system was put before council by Steve Baron in September 2017. At the time councillors decided to include the poll in this year's local body elections, rather than hold a separate poll.

"It comes down to simple fairness and mathematics," Baron said.

"Our mayor was elected [in 2016] with 39 per cent of the vote and simple mathematics tell you that 61 per cent of voters didn't actually want him as mayor."

Baron said STV is more important for selecting a mayor, but that it could also have a small effect on voting for councillors.

Mayor Hamish McDouall said it's appropriate to give the choice to the public.

"I think how we elect our representatives is a key issue and I don't think it should be left up to elected members, otherwise you may have people voting in a self-preservatory way."

In 2017 the council ran a survey which 187 people responded to. The survey showed 63 per cent preferred FPP and 37 per cent preferred STV.


McDouall said he thinks this year's poll result could be much closer.

"It's very hard to displace an existing system, but we in New Zealand have done that before with MMP replacing FPP for our general elections, and also we all vote STV for the District Health Board," McDouall said.

"There's no mayoral election this year so, rather than picking a mayor, people should put their efforts into what voting system they want."

Voters will also be asked if Whanganui should introduce voting wards, and if the number of Whanganui councillors should be dropped from 12 to 10.

The ward system splits candidates into geographical areas or groups of people.

Whanganui District Council uses an "at large" method where councillors don't formally represent areas or groups.

The poll is non-binding which means the public will need to be consulted if any changes are considered by council.

The poll regarding the number of councillors is also non-binding.

Voting packs will be sent out from September 20 to 25, and voting closes on October 12 at midday.