While the recent New Zealand local authority elections attracted their fair share of media headlines, the dominant narrative, as in previous elections, was one of declining turnout and whether or not local government has a future. Little was heard about the nature of the role councils play in their towns, cities and regions, or about the future challenges facing communities and how candidates were planning to deal with them.
Using data from the 2016 New Zealand local body elections, this article sets out to answer were why turnout in local elections is consistently below the level achieved in parliamentary elections, and why turnout in both elections has been declining. Does it reflect a disenchantment with local government, or is it symptomatic of wider changes in New Zealand society? This article asks whether or not the extensive expression of concern is justified and, if so, where we might look for possible solutions.