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no significant change   NO SIGNIFICANT CHANGE


Average voter turnout has remained low over the period 2007 to 2016 compared to historical rates.

This indicator is the average voter turnout in local councils, Waikato District Health Board (WDHB) and regional council elections in the Waikato region.

Why is this indicator important?

Voter turnout is an indicator of community engagement and political participation. It reflects the extent to which we all feel we are a part of the political process. It also shows the level of importance we attach to political institutions. Low voter turnout can affect the degree to which a politician or a political institution can be seen as truly representing what people in their electorate want for their region and for New Zealand.

Measuring voter turnout can indicate where more work needs to be done to better engage the voting public to enable an improved connection between the community and local and central government.

voter turnout graph

Year Average voter turnout in local council, DHB and regional council elections (%)
2007 37.6
2010 41.5
2013 39.7
2016 37.0


What is this indicator telling us?

  • Average voter turnout for the 2016 local council, WDHB and regional council elections in the Waikato Region was 37.0%, compared to 42.5% average nationwide.
  • Voter turnout in smaller district councils tends to be higher than for regional and city councils, especially for those councils which have a smaller constituency. In the 2016 elections, the highest levels of voter turnout throughout the Waikato region were in the Thames-Coromandel district (52.7%) and Taupō district (50.9%). This compares with Hamilton city at a record low of 33.6% (down from 58.0% in 1989), Waikato Regional Council 36.8% and WDHB at 35.2%.
  • Voter turnout in local authority elections has been trending generally downward since 1989, following the restructuring of local government. Although there was a temporary increase in voter turnout for the 2010 local body elections, for almost all councils in New Zealand, voter turnout hit record lows in the 2013 and 2016 local body elections. Similar low trends are evident for WDHB and regional council elections.
  • Voter turnout for national general elections is much higher, but has also been declining in the long term. In 2014, the New Zealand general election had 77.9% voter turnout compared to 88.3% in 1996.
  • New Zealand’s level of voter turnout for the 2014 general elections remains higher than the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) average of 68%.

Check out related information on our website and other organisations’ websites listed on our Waikato Progress Indicators’ Useful Links page.


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Figures for the 2013 and 2016 local council, WDHB and regional council elections were sourced from the Department of Internal Affairs website in October 2017 and verified by a DIA staff member. Figures for 2007 and 2010 were previously compiled and provided to WPI by the DIA. Voter turnout statistics for 1989 to 2010 territorial authority (TA) elections were previously compiled by Monitoring and Reporting Community Outcomes (MARCO). 

According to DIA (2010) page 38: “A range of factors impact on voter turnout at local authority elections in New Zealand. The level of turnout at a particular election can be seen to reflect a combination of underlying factors and particular local issues relating to that election. Underlying factors are the ongoing institutional arrangements relating to local elections, the characteristics of the particular electorate in terms of such things as size and its urban/rural character, and also the vicissitudes of elector behaviour.”

Because size of constituency is a key determinant of voter turnout, TA rates (or averages) cannot be meaningfully compared with regional council turnout rates. For this reason, and for consistency with the Wellington Region Genuine Progress Index, the Waikato Progress Indicator (WPI) primary indicator has been selected as being the average voter turnout in local council, DHB and regional council elections.

Update details: Indicator is the average voter turnout in local council, WDHB and regional council which occur triennially. Local authority elections are held on the second Saturday in October every three years. The most recent election was 8 October 2016. Official Voter turnout statistics are available from the Department of Internal Affairs. Verified and published voter turnout results from the local body 2019 election will likely be available in March 2020.

Customised data request requirements: Generally nil, as the required statistics are regularly published through tables in the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) Local Authority Election Statistics report. However, if WPI publication is within several months following an election and/or if the DIA report discontinues publication of the WPI-specific required data, then it should be possible to get a customised data extract directly from DIA. The WPI information to be sought is voter turnout for local council, DHB and regional council elections – Waikato region, Auckland, Wellington region, Bay of Plenty and total New Zealand regional councils’ average. Secondary data may also be useful in relation to territorial authority (TA) elections and also voter turnout for mayoral elections. 

Note this WPI indicator is harmonised with the Wellington Region Genuine Progress Index (WRGPI) voter turnout indicator. 


Territorial Authority (TA) disaggregation: Yes

Other regions: Yes 

New Zealand: Yes 

Other countries/ Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD): OECD comparison available from the Better Life Index website