And the winner is . . . apathy
Voter apathy throughout the greater Manawatu region appears to be winning the election race, with the number of people voting well down on 2010.
At the latest count on Thursday, the number of returned papers was down in most regions compared to the same time before the last local body elections.
Palmerston North and Tararua numbers were down, while Manawatu voters seem especially nonchalant, with voter turnout there the lowest it has been in the past four elections.
Palmerston North electoral officer John Annabell said it was typical to see a rush of papers returned in the final days, and it was too soon to assume the slow start in the city would result in a lower overall turnout than in 2010.
Rangitikei was the only area polling significantly better than the last election, while Horowhenua was flat.
Associate Professor Christine Cheyne, a local government specialist at Massey University, said having no options for mayor - incumbent Margaret Kouvelis is standing unopposed - affected turnout in the Manawatu District.
"You need heat in an election campaign to draw out people."
That heat also extended to issues in the community, she said.
Voter turnout in Hawke's Bay had gone up, which could be down to the community being worried about amalgamation and the proposed Ruataniwha dam.
The low turnout follows a trend from the general election, which had the lowest number of voters in more than 100 years.
Dr Cheyne said many people thought that election had a guaranteed outcome, and believed their vote would not change the result. Postal voting was also unhelpful, she said.
"It is quite a long voting period - three weeks - and people do lose their papers," she said.
"That has been a constant for the past three or four elections that we have had with postal voting."
Electronic voting, which is being trialled in Manawatu in 2016, was one way to try to improve the turnout. But Dr Cheyne said e-voting should have been in place much earlier.
Local Government Minister Chris Tremain said the low voter turnout was behind his implementing the e-voting trial in 2016. "Online voting will be much easier and will encourage young people to vote."
But for now, people should make sure they fill in their pieces of paper, Mr Tremain said.
Voting papers must be in by October 12.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Do you agree with increased oil exploration?