Story: Electoral systems

Page 7. Local-authority electoral systems

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In the early 2000s New Zealand used four different electoral systems for conducting local-authority elections.


This system was used to elect most mayors, as well as councillors representing single-member wards. The first mayor of the Auckland ‘super city’, Len Brown, was elected in 2010 by first-past-the-post. He received 49.3% of the valid votes cast.

Block voting

This system was used for most multi-member ward elections, and for most regional-council elections.

The block vote is a first-past-the-post system in which electors have as many votes as there are vacancies. If there are enough voters to elect one party’s candidate, and if these voters also vote for their party’s other candidates, it is likely that all the seats will be won by the same party.

This is illustrated by the results in the Eden-Albert ward in the 2004 Auckland City Council elections. The three candidates running on the City Vision ticket won a total of 44.6% of the votes and won all three of the ward’s seats on the council. The three candidates running for the Citizens and Ratepayers Now group won a total of 30.9% of the votes, but no seats.

Preferential voting

Preferential voting is used to elect some mayors – notably, the mayor of Wellington. In the 2010 mayoral election the incumbent, Kerry Prendergast, won 40.9% of the first preference votes, compared with Celia Wade-Brown’s 34.8%. However, in the absence of a majority, a distribution of preferences was required and Wade-Brown was elected mayor on the fifth count – with 50.2% of the valid votes cast in the election, to Prendergast’s 49.8%. The 2019 Wellington mayoral count was similarly tight, with incumbent Justin Lester 2.5% ahead on first preferences, but challenger Andy Foster elected on the eighth count with 50.06% of the vote.

Single transferable voting

Single transferable voting (STV) is used to elect some ward councillors (in cities such as Wellington), and until their abolition in 2022 was also used to elect seven members to each of New Zealand’s 20 district health boards. Under STV voters rank candidates in order of preference, as in preferential voting. Candidates need a certain number of votes to be elected.

How to cite this page:

Nigel S. Roberts, 'Electoral systems - Local-authority electoral systems', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 16 July 2024)

Story by Nigel S. Roberts, published 20 Jun 2012, updated 1 Feb 2015