In response to a Supreme Court Declaration of Inconsistency, the Government has introduced a Bill that lowers the voting age for local government elections from 18 to 16.
The Bill has passed its first reading and will be further considered in the next parliamentary term following a full select committee process.
In November 2022, the Supreme Court made a Declaration of Inconsistency, which determined that the voting age of 18 for both parliamentary and local elections was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, and the inconsistency had not yet been justified.
This is the first time a declaration of inconsistency has been issued since the Bill of Rights Act was amended to provide for new procedures. In accordance with law, the Government was required to table its response in the House, which is then debated shortly after.
Changes to the voting age for general elections are not being considered as part of this.
“Local and central government make decisions that affect young people every day,” Justice Minister Ginny Andersen said. “In order to change the voting age for parliamentary elections, support from 75 percent of MPs or a majority in a referendum is needed. It’s clear there isn’t sufficient support for this currently to make that change.”
“Lowering the voting age for local elections has the potential to instil life-long voting habits,” Local Government Minister Kieran McAnulty said. “It can allow young people to first enrol and vote during a time when they are more likely to be living at home, connected to their local community, and attending school, than in later years.”
If passed by the next parliament, the Bill would come into effect for the 2028 triennial local elections.
- The minimum voting age will remain at 18 for elections under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, which affects alcohol licensing trusts and community trusts under that Act.
- The Bill provides that eligible voters who are also New Zealand citizens will be eligible to stand as candidates in local elections. This carries over the current candidate eligibility criteria. This means that the minimum candidacy age for local elections will also be 16, except for elections under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, where it will be 18.