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person gesturing to a cartoon 'local elections 2022' sign
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Local Elections 2022September 5, 2022

Ways to work out who – and what – you’re voting for these local elections

person gesturing to a cartoon 'local elections 2022' sign
It’s democracy, baby!

Sources and considerations to help find out more about the candidates seeking your vote – and what to watch out for. 

You wake, bleary eyed, a kaleidoscope of signage rattling about your sorry skull. You inch towards the kitchen. Not for the first morning, you try to avoid eye contact with the envelope on the bench. But the days are ticking down. The envelope clears its throat. Listen, it says. You’re always banging on about how you love democracy, love suffrage. Community this, representation that. 

You mumble something back to the guilt-tripping envelope about not knowing who those people are, what they stand for, especially the ones running for the DHB. The envelope says actually the DHBs don’t exist any more, and also please read the helpful guide on independent website thespinoff dot co dot nz. This is that guide. (See also: everything you need to know about voting in the 2022 local elections.)

Where to learn stuff

The candidate blurbs

Much better than nothing is having a read of the 150-word-limited notes provided by candidates to the council and shared via the handbook that will be tucked into the envelope with your voting forms. 

“While all candidates have bios in the voting papers, it’s important to do your own research into people running so you know how they will work together, represent the community’s views and what their policy positions are,” says Susan Freeman-Greene, chief executive of Local Government NZ.

The “complete guide to the NZ local elections 2022”, is brought to you in partnership with The Spinoff and is a very good place to start. Uniquely (as far as I’m aware) it will tell you which council and board areas you live in if you tap in your address. All candidates are invited to answer a bunch of questions across a range of important areas and you can compare them side by side – even blank out the names and photos if you’re worried you might be too susceptible to cosmetic appearances. 

“It’s brilliant, it’s very clear and concise and easy to navigate,” said Jenny-May Clarkson on Breakfast the other day and, as usual, she’s right. 

Illustration: Ezra Whittaker-Powley

Blurb on the council site

Usually this will be the same material that is included in the voting materials. But some councils include more information from candidates online. And in most cases they’re posted before voting papers and the accompanying booklet are distributed so you don’t need to wait for the envelope to land. 

Candidates online

Some candidates have gone the whole hog and created their own websites. More often, there will be a Facebook page, or a Twitter profile – in a very few cases, something on TikTok. But have a scroll through their online presences; you’ll get a good sense of priorities and proclivities; sometimes they’ll have posted videos, or links to relevant news articles. Sometimes they’ll have some material there that will make you want to scream in horror. It’s all useful in making your decision. 

Online media

Through their local operations and via the Local Democracy Reporting scheme, the main media outlets across Aotearoa have a bunch of intrepid reporters on the case. Whether it’s via one of the Stuff or NZME titles, RNZ, the ODT/Allied Press, or one of the remaining mighty independents like the Wairarapa Times Age or the Ashburton Guardian, the coverage is consistently excellent. Another efficient way to corral the coverage in your area is to head to Google News and type the contest, eg “Western Bay of Plenty District Council” (in inverted commas) into the search field. 

Local print media

Local papers (and magazines) come into their own at election time. 


Media outlets, business associations and other groups hold debates, also known as “meet the candidates” events for contests around the country. Some more than others – there have already been around three dozen of the things, for example, in Auckland, while some localities have approximately zilch planned. Some councils list these events on their sites, but most, disappointingly, do not. These days they’re often streamed online, so you can watch from home, or after the event is over. 

To the chagrin of some, not every candidate is invited to every event. To the chagrin of some event organisers, not all invited candidates turn up. 

Community events

The most industrious candidates will be out and about at local markets, fairs, culture and sports events. Some might even knock on your door. Ask them a pointed question, politely say you’re not up for a chat or exercise your democratic right to hide under the duvet.

Pre-election reports

If you’re heroically diligent, you should be able to find on your council’s website the pre-election report. Chief executives need to publish such reports a fortnight before nominations close (we’re well past that point now), so to “provide information to promote public discussion about the issues facing the local authority”.


There are better places to learn about the candidates, sure, but aesthetics count for something, as does basic carpentry. If nothing else, a big old sign very often points you in the direction of more information. 

What to look for

The policy positions

Well, obviously. If you encounter a candidate in the wild (online or off), you could put to them a question or two from this list, as suggested by LGNZ:

  • What do you see as the biggest challenges facing your community?
  • If elected, what do you hope to achieve by the end of the term? 
  • What do you think the role of local government is in shaping the future and success of our communities? 
  • Why are you running this election? 
  • What do you think is your most important attribute that you see if an asset or contribution around the council table?
  • How do you envisage working with others in council, especially those who don’t agree with you?
  • What are your thoughts around the role of local and central government in Aotearoa?  What could be improved?
  • How would you lead your community through challenging times such as natural disasters?
  • How do you plan to connect with all parts of their community and ensure their voices are heard?

Proficiency and character

Just as a policy platform is important, so is an individual’s ability to work with others. Susan Freeman-Greene puts it this way: “Councils are interesting places for elected members because unlike central government, when people are voted in they don’t bring a team with them. It’s very common for mayors to have to work with councillors who have run against them or lead a council with divergent views. That’s the beauty of local government. But for a council to function well, elected members need to be able to have constructive conversations and build relationships.” 

Siren words

If you read in a local election candidate’s blurb or social media posts references to things like “agenda 21”, “WEF” or “world economic forum”, “globalist agenda”, “cabal”, or similar, be aware these are terms often used in misinformation-driven circles. If there are concepts that seem perplexing, do a moment’s research – it might be a nod and a wink. Tread carefully!

Record to date

For incumbents, general positions, voting records and the rest can be found by searching local media reports and, in many cases, there will be records on the council site and archived streams of council sessions. 


Nominated candidates are invited to include an “affiliation” with their name, which will appear on voting forms. You may see a party name you recognise from general elections, others are local-election specific. It can be a bit of a confounding soup, but it doesn’t hurt to look up the affiliation if that’s important to you. 

Some go simply for “independent”, while others, such as veteran bard of the local elections, Tubby Hansen (Haughty Naughty Nudist, 2004), use the affiliation field to, well, tell a story.

The voting system

It’s up to each local authority whether they use first past the post or single transferable vote. Your council site will advise the method (as will voting packs) but STV offers more opportunity to approach your vote tactically. Here’s an excellent explainer.

Keep going!