Stance on nominations causes surprise

MATTHEW LITTLEWOOD
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2013

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The Waimate District Council is refusing to release copies of completed local body election nomination forms to the Herald.

The council has outsourced its electoral processing to electionz.com, which initially said sending copies of the candidates' nomination forms to the newspaper would be "illegal", before later retracting that claim.

Electionz.com returning officer Anthony Morton said the Herald could examine the forms but was not allowed copies of them.

"There's nothing stopping you looking at the forms at the Waimate council offices, but we won't let you have copies of them - at least not until the candidate nominations close on August 16," he said.

The candidate forms provide details about the candidate, as well as their two references or "nominators".

Waimate district support services officer Carolyn Johns referred all media inquiries to electionz.com.

She said electionz.com told the council that its previous practice of sending copies of completed candidate forms was illegal.

The Electoral Act stipulates "any person may inspect any nomination or consent without payment of any fee at any time during ordinary office hours at the office of the electoral officer".

When the Herald pointed out that there was nothing in the legislation that specified rules about distributing candidate forms, Mr Morton retracted.

"It's generally not considered good practice, so we're not sending you them," he said.

The Internal Affairs Department was surprised by the Waimate District Council's stance. The Electoral Commission also drew a blank in its efforts to determine whether the practice was illegal.

Professor Andrew Geddis, of the Otago University law faculty, also said the Waimate council was "quite wrong" in its interpretation.

"They have a legal duty to let you [see the forms] at their offices. But there is nothing in law to stop them giving it to you in any other form," Prof Geddis said.

The Timaru and Mackenzie districts would process their local body election forms "in-house". Timaru agreed to provide the Herald with copies of the mayoral, ward and community board candidate forms, as well as those for the Geraldine Licensing Trust and the South Canterbury District Health Board, as they were processed.

This has been the council's practice for several local government elections.

According to electionz.com's website, only incumbent Peter McIlraith and local community member Arthur Gavegan have officially filed to run for council office in Waimate.

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The Mackenzie district has not had any official nominations filed with the council yet, but staff said about "four or five" people had picked up nomination forms this week.

- The Timaru Herald

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