By Ellis Pike
So, you’re enrolled to vote in the local elections?
For most people, probably not, and for those who are, you might not know what’s going on. This article will outline the key things to know and the websites to visit to best use your vote.
The first step when looking into the local elections should be determining the ward and board that you are in. This is based on where you live. Auckland Council has a search bar that will tell you what ward and board you are in. Once you know this, you can see who is running in your area.
What’s on my ballot?
There are 21 local boards in Auckland, each consisting of 5 to 9 members who are responsible for the decision making in local areas. They represent the area in governing body meetings and carry out any decisions that have been delegated to them by the governing body. This includes proposing new bylaws to the governing body that are suitable for their area. Local boards also create three-year strategic plans for their area, as well as establishing and reviewing local board agreements between themselves and the governing body. These agreements contain the budget for local boards, which allows them to manage the facilities in the area.
There are 13 wards in Auckland, they are designed to provide an even ratio of elected officials to population across Auckland. Twenty ward councillors are also elected to the governing body.
The governing body is made up of the Mayor and the 20 elected councillors. Their focus is Auckland overall. They are responsible for the preparation of the 10-year strategic plan, annual reports and annual budgets. They set the rates and bylaws for all of Auckland and make strategic policy decisions for the implementation of the policies outlined in their annual reports and 10-year plan.
In addition, you will be able to vote for members of District Health Boards (DHBs). There are three DHBs in Auckland, and they provide and fund health and disability services across the city.
Meanwhile, Licensing Trusts are organisations that hold monopolies on developing premises to sell alcohol. There are owned by communities and are democratically elected.
What policies are the candidates proposing?
To find out what some of the important issues facing Auckland are, the Pre-election Report is a great place to start. It outlines various sectors that the council are making decisions on such as transport, housing, diversity, the environment and climate change. 
The transport section of the report details the current projects in place such as the City Rail Link. The report states that the future issues facing transport in Auckland are based around dealing with congestion, improving public transport systems, building safer cycleways and how new technology could address these issues.
The housing section notes that the council’s response to the current housing shortage is to approve more dwellings and changing land zoning to allow for housing developments to occur.
The report also states that as Auckland’s population continues to grow, the city is becoming more diverse, with over 180 ethnicities and 175 languages. A goal of the council is to encourage and nurture this diversity and make Auckland a place where everyone feels comfortable to live.
Protecting the environment is also a significant factor that the council must focus on. The report outlines how the implementation of the natural environment targeted rate in 2018 will lead to significant funds being available to the council to protect natural waterways, parks, islands and marine reserves as well as target kauri dieback disease. The council must also consider biodiversity and has a focus on pest eradication.
All these goals are worthy of being pursued. However, as the council has a limited budget, some goals must be prioritised over others. Partnerships with the crown as well as the private sector must be considered in order to finance the various projects that the council is involved in. The rates that are charged are used to finance these activities. How rates are used and whether it is justifiable to increase them are key questions that voters often consider.
Candidates for the 2019 elections can be found on the Auckland Council website, once you enter in your address you can see the candidates for Mayor, your local board, your ward and even the district health board. Each member has a profile that you can view, outlining who they are and what policies they will adopt if they are successful. Viewing their profiles will give you an idea of which candidate aligns with your personal views; however, they are not very long or overly comprehensive. To get a more comprehensive impression on the candidates, attending local debates, such as the Mayoral debate that was held on the second of this month, are a great way to increase your knowledge about the candidates. You can also check out your area’s local newspaper for information and browse news sites for stories on your area.
Auckland Council primarily uses the First Past the Post (FPP) election system. Under FPP you vote for your preferred candidate for each position and the candidate with the most votes wins. The one exception to this is the case of District Health Boards, which uses instead the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. Here, you rank the candidates in order of preference, and the final composition of the DHB will ensure a fair and proportional reflection of the results.
Voting opened on September the 20th and closes on the 12th of October. You should receive a postal voting paper in the mail by the 25th of September. Once you’ve received it, simply fill out the form, put it in the prepaid envelope and post it.
For those of you who are not enrolled to vote in this election, you should make sure you are enrolled in 3 years when the next election happens. Decisions the council makes can have significant impacts on how you live and can change your area in major ways.
 Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, 2012, s305.
The Public Policy Club is a non-partisan club at the University of Auckland that aims to encourage, educate and involve students from all backgrounds in the education and development of political knowledge. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PPC.