National has arrived at an unlikely point of agreement with the Green Party over the issue of property owners in multiple council areas voting multiple times in local elections.
After announcing on Wednesday morning that he would not work with Te Pāti Māori after the election, Christopher Luxon said it was because his party stands for one person, one vote. He claimed some co-governance arrangements violated this principle, but didn’t name any specific policies that involve voting.
Te Pāti Māori co-leader Rawiri Waititi said Luxon was “dog-whistling” and pointed out that, as a person owning houses in both Wellington and Auckland, Luxon himself enjoys the right to vote multiple times.
Speaking about the ratepayer franchise, which allows people paying rates to different councils to vote for each council, Luxon said “one person, one vote works well”.
When asked whether he would therefore get rid of the option, he replied, “Possibly, yes”.
This is an about-face from National’s previous position. When asked last August, ahead of the local elections, deputy leader Nicola Willis said the ratepayer franchise didn’t violate one person, one vote.
“I think the principle of one person, one vote is critically important, but what we are seeing with the issue of people who are resident in two jurisdictions is that they are not being afforded any more votes in that jurisdiction than someone else. These are the sorts of issues I would be interested in seeing how many people are actually in that position. But my view is they’re not actually altering the proportionality of representation in that region,” she said.
Labour ministers said they would like to look at the issue in more detail.
“I think there could be an equity issue and I would be interested in understanding that more. I think there is an argument to be made where you are a property owner and you pay rates to local council and they make decisions that impact the infrastructure and spend of your rates, there’s an argument to be made that you have the right to make decisions in that election,” Justice Minister Kiri Allan said at the time.
ACT’s deputy leader Brooke van Velden said they were also open to looking at it if it was a serious concern, but doubted it was.
“I don’t think it is the problem that it looks like. Really, anyone bringing this up on Twitter is just trying to deflect from the Labour Party’s problem that we actually have a cost-of-living crisis [and] crime is going through the roof. I don’t think this is a real problem.”
That leaves the Greens as the only other party to explicitly oppose the ratepayer franchise, a position reiterated on Wednesday.
“We think it’s deeply unfair that privileged people get more privileged and then get more votes,” co-leader Marama Davidson said.
Labour previously attempted to repeal the ratepayer franchise in the last round of major local government reforms in 2002, but the option was added back in during the select committee process.
Tenant advocacy group Renters United launched a petition last year to abolish the policy.