Power of the People

Spring is looking good at pa harakeke

This week has demonstrated how a small number of people with the right connections can have big impact in New Zealand. Franco, our back-paddock Argentine, says that’s why he has chosen New Zealand as the country in which he wants to live. Here you can make change if you have to will to do so.

A few weeks ago Franco and I were talking about voting in the local body elections. I asked him what he thought of the Queenstown Lakes District Council Mayoral Candidates. We chatted about it but said there wasn’t much point him thinking about it too hard as he can’t currently vote. I said, “Why not?” I had read the online information about who is eligible to vote and thought he must be eligible. He had read the same information and thought he wasn’t! Franco followed up because he wants to vote. He rang the QLDC Returning Officer. They weren’t sure if he was eligible. Then he rang the Electoral Commission in Wellington. They weren’t sure either!

More springy images at pa harakeke – forsythia in full bloom

Franco has one of the special one-off, post-COVID 2021 Resident Visas. It turns out that no one in government had thought specifically about whether these people could vote once they secured the visa! There are at least 55,000 people granted these visas who are of voting age – that’s a significant number of ‘maybe-voters’.

The one off visa is not a ‘Permanent Resident Visa’ and there are assumptions around that you have to be a Permanent Resident or Citizen to vote therefore the special visa isn’t eligible. However, it turns out, after consideration by the Electoral Commission, that the electoral system classes someone as a permanent resident if they are not required to leave the country. On that basis, the one-off visas make visa holders a permanent resident for voting purposes. The other criterion for voting is that you have lived in New Zealand for at least a year at some point in time. Pretty much anyone eligible for the 2021 Resident Visa will have been here more than one year because, to be eligible for the visa, they had to be in New Zealand in September 2021. Nearly everyone in NZ in September 2021 had been here since lockdown of March 2020.

Franco’s questioning led to clarification of electoral status for a very significant number of people. The decision was publicised locally by Crux and on the Green Party social media page. Hurray for the ability of the few to change things for the betterment for the many. Yesterday this news hit the national media, with the report quoting a migrant in Auckland who saw the article on the Green Party website and realising they could vote, where they thought they could not.

However, not hurray – the government and associated bodies have done a pathetic job of advertising the clarification on voting. There are complaints in the media about people not voting in local body elections, while there are a whole lot of migrants keen to vote but who they don’t know they can. So, while I love a country where someone asking their well-connected and tenacious friend a question can lead to a change in voting status for tens of thousands of people, we can definitely do better yet.

Trilliums signifying pa harakeke spring and reminding me of Dad’s garden, which is their origin
This is the symbol of the Queenstown local body elections – there are some very combative and defamatory worms vying for the job of Mayor

Published by janecshearer

I'm a self-employed life enthusiast living in Gibbston, New Zealand

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