Auckland Council's chief executive is no longer responsible for voter turnout but the change raises concerns about who picks up the torch.
At the Governing Body meeting on July 28, the body voted to remove a performance objective for chief executive Jim Stabback to improve representation and participation in local elections.
The decision comes on the basis that the chief executive's ability to influence representation and participation was limited.
Cr Chris Darby said he believed the objective should reside with central government rather than the chief executive or council.
“We are seeing a pattern of declining participation in elections at Auckland Council. We are seeing that around the nation,” Darby said.
“That should be a real concern for government but it does not seem to be registering.”
Darby said central government edicts like the Three Waters reform leaned toward a more centralised approach.
“Local government is really on the precipice of becoming irrelevant at the moment.”
“Yes, we relieve the chief executive of this responsibility but we cannot relieve ourselves of the responsibility to advocate to central government to pick it up.”
Mayor Phil Goff supported Darby’s analysis.
“The more government centralises and takes control over things that would normally be within the control of local government, the less relevant local government becomes in the eyes of electives,” Goff said.
Goff also said the limited coverage of elections at a ward level also impacts voter turnout.
“People have said to me ‘we are not going to vote because we don’t know any of the candidates.”
Cr Daniel Newman said he suspected “declining social license” regarding lockdowns and the rollout of vaccinations had compromised the trust and confidence of the public in government.
“That will most likely play out in quite significant declining voter participation,” Newman said.
“I regret that, it doesn’t sit comfortably with me that the turnout in my ward is one of the lowest anywhere in Auckland.”
Newman said while he wanted to win in his ward, he wanted to win with a much higher turnout of voters.
Voting packs for this year's local election will be sent from September 16.