Wellington Scoop

How to vote

by Ian Apperley
Here’s a public service announcement about voting in the local body elections: Only vote for those you want to see on the council.

Loki clearly designed the STV system. It’s complicated, full of trickery, and has a devilish counting system built-in that has all the characteristics of the labyrinth.

In short, you only want to vote for candidates that you want to see in Council. Do not be tempted to rank all candidates on your form. Only number, in ranked order, the candidates that you’d like to see forming our new Council. Ranking other candidates can see votes transferred to people you didn’t want to vote for at all. I know, right?

Voting for Party-backed Candidates

Candidates come in two flavours. Independent, or Party backed.

Independents are just that, or should be, they have no affiliation to a central political party and are generally better equipped to represent their communities. They are not led by central party policy.

Party-backed candidates are backed by a central political party. For example, the Labour Party is running five candidates in the WCC election plus the Mayor. The Green Party if also running candidates.

Now, there is nothing wrong with voting for a Party-backed candidate. However you need to realise that they are at the whim of the Party, not the community.

In other words, the central Party will tell them how to vote, what policies to adopt, and probably manage most of their communications. If you are a central Party supporter and you’re happy for decisions to be made by them, rather than at community level, then vote away for Party-backed candidates.

In Wellington, Labour and the Greens are trying very hard to get a range of candidates on to the Council, plus the Mayor. If they can get that majority, then the independents will have no voice so Labour and the Greens can dictate policy to the city via their Council puppets.

Your choice.

Buses are not something that local Councillors can fix.

Many candidates are claiming they can fix the bus situation. This is untrue and naughty campaigning. They are appealing to a misconception that the WCC has control over the public transport system, through popular politicking to grab your vote.

They can’t fix it, and have no control, and while they can influence it, they can’t change it. Don’t believe the hype. Voting for Party Puppets won’t help, because Central Government has refused to get involved in the issue.

What you can do is vote for Regional Council candidates who can influence the bus issue, and that is where the debate should be occurring.

When you strip out the bus issue, you are left with a lot of candidates with no other policy. They’re not worth casting a vote for. I’d also be cautious over any promises around LGWM for the same reasons. The WCC has very little control (who does, JAG?) over that process, and Central Government are probably keeping their powder dry to pork barrel transport at next year’s general election.

Pull out buses and LGWM from candidate promises.

Dream, Build, or Maintain?

Candidates, in fact most people, come in three flavours when they are working.

There are dreamers, visionaries, strategic thinkers who often come up with long-term ideas for a city, such as an airport extension, convention centre, monorails, and other fancy such ideas.

We need dreamers – otherwise our city won’t evolve.

Then there are builders. Those who turn plans into reality. They get shit done.

The there are maintainers. Those who see a 70% plus increase in rates looming in the next five years, a dead heart of the city, creaking infrastructure, all the maintenance requirements of a complex town, and move to reduce cost while getting the basics right.

Ask yourself. Is it time to dream? Time to build? Or time to deal with the basics? Then, look at your candidate, are they dreamers, builders, or maintainers?


Given that we can’t afford LGWM right now, which is okay because no one can figure out what it is anyway, and we have mounting debt, massively rising rates, and core issues that are not being funded, ask yourself how a candidate is actually going to make something happen.

This particularly relates to the Mayoral candidates.

Pork Barreling is “the utilisation of government funds for projects designed to please voters or legislators and win votes” or the promise thereof.

So when you read candidate promises, look for “how” they are going to achieve it and how we are going to afford it, as opposed to believing the hype.

Don’t forget candidates’ past performance

Candidates running for re-election often carry portfolios for which they are responsible over the triennium. Here’s a list.

When considering candidates, ask yourself: did they help make things better or worse in the last three years? Who is in charge of transport for example? Is transport better or worse now? How about housing?

Non performers should not be allowed to forget their performance record and make promises anew without being held to account.

And new candidates should hold the incumbents to account.

First published on Inside Wellington.


  1. Michael Gibson, 9. September 2019, 7:25

    It might be true that the claims of some candidates that they can fix the bus situation are “untrue and naughty …..”
    However, City Councillors should be making as much noise as possible about our buses simply in order to “GGWM” (Get Greater Wellington Moving”)
    I was present a year ago when Justin Lester was first hauled up in front of Parliament’s Transport Select Committee. I was appalled at his failure to speak up about how dire the bus situation was for Wellingtonians. Indeed he seemed to act as an apologist for his friends on the Regional Council. If he had done his job and been a half-decent advocate for Wellingtonians, then the fixing might have been finished by now.
    It is simply untrue that City Councillors are without resources in their approach to the bus disaster.

  2. Conor Hill, 9. September 2019, 9:03

    Some information notably absent on this post. Andy Foster stood for NZ First at the last general election. Diane Calvert has been endorsed by the “Wellington” party, which is the latest National party costume. They are also running a slate. Leaving this information out seems very deliberate, and not at all independent.

  3. Curtis Antony Nixon, 9. September 2019, 12:51

    You haven’t mentioned that some so-called independent candidates are actually National Party candidates in sheep’s clothing. They can be identified as such by their policies, and in some cases close relationship (eg daughter, brother) of past National cabinet ministers.

    Don’t be fooled by their hypocritical stance that “we should take party politics out of local government”. It is just that they dishonestly don’t admit their allegiances, while Labour and Greens are upfront about this.

  4. Andrew Bartlett, 9. September 2019, 18:56

    It is a common misconception that exhausting your vote (not numbering all the candidates) somehow disadvantages candidates during an STV vote. What it does essentially is allows everybody else to decide from that point on.

    That is, your vote is no longer in the pool of votes ‘working’, but others are, working quite possibly against what remains of your interests. The pool of votes deciding the quota/election is now one smaller.

    It is far better to number all the candidates in order of preference. The last number is essentially the same as a blank box, but beyond that it is still worth working out who is ‘least worst’ for one’s particular viewpoint.

  5. Graeme Edgeler, 9. September 2019, 19:07

    The description of how to vote under STV is incompetent. It is not possible for a later ranking to hurt the chances of anyone you ranked higher than them. While it is not compulsory to rank all candidates, it is a good idea, especially if there is one candidate you dislike more than the others (rank that candidate last).

  6. TrevorH, 9. September 2019, 21:56

    The Ancient Egyptians built the great pyramid of Kufu using only copper tools and their ingenuity. Nearly a century ago Wellingtonians built the Mt Victoria tunnel in the midst of the Great Depression, confident of the city’s future prosperity and national significance. Fast forward to 2019: a city in stasis and decline under the incompetent and arrogant rule of self-serving mediocre party hacks. Vote them all out this October.

  7. Stephen Todd, 9. September 2019, 22:03

    “You only want to vote for candidates that you want to see in Council. Do not be tempted to rank all candidates on your form. Only number, in ranked order, the candidates that you’d like to see forming our new Council. Ranking other candidates can see votes transferred to people you didn’t want to vote for at all?” This is both incorrect and bad advice; it reveals a basic misunderstanding of how STV works. This is what you could/should have said: “Given that later preferences are never activated until earlier preference-candidates have either been elected, or excluded from the count, it is perfectly safe to successively rank-order as many candidates as you are able to, anywhere from just one, to as many candidates as there are standing for election.”

    Readers should know that each voter’s single vote is used to help elect the candidate who is his or her first preference. Later preferences are contingency choices only.

    For example, take an election where seven candidates are contesting three seats. Sure, I can rank-order just three candidates, if they are the only three that *I* consider to be worthy of election, but what if only *one* of them is elected (and the other two are excluded from the count)? There are still two seats to fill, but I will now have no say as to who will fill them. (The surplus portion of my vote not needed by the candidate I helped to elect, will become non-transferable, i.e., it will drop out of the count.) That means I have now denied myself the opportunity to help obtain for myself the least-worst outcome.

    Of the four hopeful candidates remaining in the count, I might prefer D and B to E and G, but I cannot help D and B defeat E and G if I don’t rank-order them ahead of E and G. If I were to take your advice and not rank-order D and B, I would, in effect, be helping E and G to fill the second and third seats, thereby ensuring for myself a worse outcome than might otherwise have been achievable.

  8. Thomas Nash, 9. September 2019, 22:18

    How can it be true that party-backed candidates are puppets for their parties when they don’t all vote the same way? Green Wellington City Councillors have voted differently on various issues, but if they were getting instructions from the party that would be impossible. The answer is that these instructions do not in fact exist. As for communications management from the central party – dream on. Those comms people are way too busy keeping up with parliamentary business to have any spare minutes to advise local councillors.

  9. Benny, 10. September 2019, 11:27

    Ian should not get the heat he’s getting on this article. He’s tried to explain what is a complex system to elect our councillors and mayor. And that is what is not ok: an election system should be clear and simple, that people can easily understand without a training or user manual, and more importantly, can verify. Transparency, simplicity is key to ensure people trust democracy.

  10. Mathew Biars, 10. September 2019, 13:43

    At the end of the day the Council always gets in. And as part of the Council, the Councilors then seem to follow Council’s agenda, I note most of them are doing it already in their election campaigns.
    Thomas Nash: Councilors getting instructions from the party or central govt is really easy. It is been disclosed by a Councilor that they are “puppets”, not for the public interests but for a central govt’s political agenda.

  11. Richard M, 10. September 2019, 20:11

    @Benny Ian is misleading people on the best way to vote. The election system is clear and simple: you rank the candidates in order of preference, and that’s really all you need to know. Ian is over-complicating it by suggesting you should stop ranking when you get to candidates you don’t want to see elected. That is very bad advice: if there are two candidates you dislike it always pays to rank them if you prefer one to the other.