by Christopher Ruthe

The new Council has focused on what it considers a first priority of business — lowering the voting age.  Council notched this up as its first major post-election achievement. Led by Mayor Holborow (right in the photo) and Councillor Handford (second left), Kapiti now claims victory in the battle to have 16 year olds getting the vote. 

The issues discussed in this article are not the merits or otherwise of lowering the voting age.

They are, rather:

1. Does a local council have any lawful authority to meddle in constitutional matters?

2. Does a council have any powers to purport to represent all Kapiti residents as supporting the lowering of the voting age when lobbying Parliament?

3. How does this Council justify spending ratepayers money on legal and constitutional matters that have nothing to do with KCDC?

What gives a local council the right to interfere in constitutional matters?

The Council has committed to spending an undisclosed amount of money preparing an extensive submission to the Government (see Dominion Post, 8 December 2022).  KCDC will have the further expense of numbers of staff attending the hearing at Parliament’s select committee.

Paradoxically, by KCDC saying they are representing all of Kapiti they have stripped away the mana of any person in Kapiti making a submission against lowering the age. Council says “this is what the people think.” Individual status is removed by those in power.

What right does the council have to represent that all Kapiti residents support the lowering of the voting age?

None. Interestingly, the KCDC does not state which Act of Parliament gave this Council these extraordinary powers. Why? Because the Local Government Act 2002 s12 prohibits KCDC doing what it has done. This section limits the powers of a local authority as follows: “A territorial authority must exercise its powers wholly or principally for the benefit of its district.” 

Advocating for the voting age to be lowered for all of NZ exceeds those powers. It is neither wholly nor principally for the benefit of the district. Rather it is wholly for the benefit of all New Zealanders aged 16 or 17, and nothing to do with the district of Kapit as a place or collection of people.  Just as the Government arrogantly defied convention and tried to entrench legislation, this Labour Party-dominated council displays a similar contempt for democratic rules and conventions.

It is noteworthy KCDC is demanding haste by the Government as it wants the change to the voting age in time for the 2025 local elections . The councillors who voted for it have their political futures involved here.

In the meantime KCDC will have staff prepare copious submissions for presentation to Parliament, all uncosted. The Local Government requires councils to consult communities. On this issue they did not. Mayor Holborow said that was totally unnecessary!

Glen Cooper moved to adjourn Handford’s motion but was defeated.

Councillor Glen Cooper objected to the motion on the basis of lack of consultation, including with iwi, and it being a NZ Constitutional matter not within the powers of KCDC. The KCDC record shows Councillor Cooper earnestly pleaded with fellow councillors: “This is not about the rights and wrongs of the campaign, simply, we haven’t consulted the community. As a highly technical and constitutional issue, I think it deserves a little bit more thought”.

Mayor Holborrow imperiously responded saying: “It’s something we decide to do to support a certain cause or kaupapa and use our influence that we have been elected to use to progress society in a way that we think it should progress,” she said. “It doesn’t need to be consulted on.”

How does this Council justify spending Ratepayers’ money on legal and constitutional matters that have nothing to do with KCDC? 

The Rates go up

So while the rates spiral upwards, Council busies itself by becoming a sophisticated lobbying group.  As the Mayor so eloquently puts it, “We have been elected to use to progress society in a way that we think it should progress .”

In the meantime, and presumably to save money to pay for lobbying for the voting age the Council has removed toilets from the $4 million+ transport hub at Paraparaumu station so there will be no toilet facilities available from Friday evening till Monday morning. So by the time the traveller has walked to the bus stop, waited for the bus from Paraparaumu Beach, waited for the train, then journeyed into Wellington s/he would have had no access to a toilet for over 2 hours.

Councillor Handford said of the voting age  of 18, “It’s an unjustified breach of their [16 year olds] rights”. But no-one in Kapiti should expect to have the right of access to toilet facilities while on a 2-hour trip on public transport? Is this beneath the dignity of the honourable councillors whose heads are clouded in fundamental constitutional safeguards for dependent youth, the vast majority of whom still live at home. 

This Council will vote for a Rates rise. A large rise is already set in the Long Term Plan at page 300. Rates go from $66.95 million in 20/21 to $82.55 million for this coming year 22/33. That does not include the $9 — $11 million Gateway or the new Mahara Art Gallery.

For the record — how they voted:

For (6): S. Handford​, J. Holborow​, L. Kirby​​, N, Wilson​​, R Kofoed​​, M. Halliday​​

Against (3): Glen Cooper​​, Jocelyn Prvanov​​, Kathy Spiers

Abstained: L Koh, Absent: Shelly Warwick.