Local Elections Questions

Transparency International New Zealand (TINZ) designed six sets of questions that can be used when talking with a candidate standing for local body elections, for which voting closes on 12 October. They are applicable to all positions.

We recently sent these to a large number of local body candidates around New Zealand encouraging them to reflect on the questions and select some to focus on in their social media or other promotions.

We are impressed with the feedback. Many candidates noted that while inundated with questionnaires, they appreciated the thought and unusual  perspective these provided. Many have embraced our suggestions and posted their answers to their websites and social media.

TINZ intentionally has not made any attempt to collect answers to the questions. It is the responsibility of the candidates to make sure their positions are clear when doing their own messaging. We strive for wide distribution among voters so that they are asking their potential trusted officials these kinds of questions.

Quite rightly, many noted the common disconnect between election promises and behaviour, once in office.

From Anne-Marie Coury, Elected Member, Puketāpapa Local Board;

“I am writing to say this year there have been a record number of organisations producing questions for candidates to consider.”

Most have required answers to be produced by a set date with little warning, and some have been demanding straight jackets allowing only 140 characters per statement per policy discussed.

Because these questions did not cover integrity, or conflicts of interest, I was fascinated by your set of questions. It is refreshing to not be told “this will take twenty minutes” and find that it is three or four hours to complete.

There is one issue coming up with this type of exercise that disturbs me somewhat. How can people trust a candidate to do as they say they will do?”

From Lee Orchard, Lambton Ward Candidate;

[These] “are important questions that I hope people will ask. However, right now, I fear the critical local challenges and opportunities are being completely missed because central party affiliated candidates are pushing central party policies, the majority of which the council actually has no control over. There is a real need to teach the public what local government actually has the ability to do and why those things matter.”

On the topic of local elections, Bruce Munro of the Otago Daily Times recently published an excellent article about long term planning in elected local politics. Decisions in the pipeline. “Local government elections loom, raising concerns about the fitness of those elected to make good, farsighted decisions. Bruce Munro takes a look at mistakes made and asks how elected representatives can best be equipped to tackle the big issues facing the South.”

Use hashtag #Localintegrity to promote and follow this discussion on social media.

Here are the questions

Our questions focus around integrity, transparency and accountability, including encouraging broader community participation in decision-making.

TINZ is non-partisan. It is up to the public and individual citizens to form their own view on responses.

A key objective of these questions is to emphasise the accountability of leaders to be transparent about their policies and political agendas.

  • Personal motivation
    1. Why are you standing for election?
    2. What does integrity in local government mean to you?
    3. Tell me about conflict of interest and how you manage it.
  • Access to information
    1. Do you think that the Council (or Board or Trust) gives the public the right amount of information and access to meetings?
    2. Tell me what you know about the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act and the Official Information Act?
  • Public participation
    1. What are your ideas for getting more public participation in local decisions? Who do you think is missing out?
    2. What are your ideas for helping people who don’t have good internet access, to be involved and have their say?
    3. What are your plans for engaging with young people?
  • Tangata whenua
    1. What do you think are the main issues that are important to local tangata whenua?
  • Fair representation/diversity
    1. Does your Council (or Board or Trust) have fair representation of women as councillors and employees, including leaders and managers?
    2. What is your opinion about diversity on and in the council (eg gender, ethnic, disability)?
  • Accountability
    1. How will you balance economic, social and environmental issues?
    2. When it comes to a decision, what will you prioritise?
    3. How can I trust you will follow through on your promises?

Download these questions as a handy reference.

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