Options for the election of councillors

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.

City Wide (or at-large)

All voters in the city vote for all councillors to represent the city as a whole

Pros and cons of ‘at-large’ representation systems include:

  • good for relatively small compact cities and where the population is similar in its characteristics

  • but can still be good for other cities if they have, for example, community boards

  • good for effectively representing communities of interest that are spread across the whole city, such as particular ethnic groups or interests such as disabled people

  • but the effort and cost required for candidates to campaign for election across the whole city may be a barrier

  • allows all voters to vote for all candidates standing for election

  • but is likely to result in a longer list of candidates which may discourage voters from voting

  • encourages councillors to take more of a city-wide view in their decision-making and is in line with the declaration councillors are required to make, when they are elected, to act in the interests of the city as a whole

  • but council decision-making may risk not taking more local concerns and interests into account


  • voters in defined local areas (called wards) vote for councillors to represent that area or ward

Pros and cons of a full ward system of representation include:

  • ensures representation for local areas

  • but may encourage more focus on local issues in council decision-making at the expense of city-wide ones

  • having locally elected councillors is likely to encourage more participation locally

  • but this participation will need to be balanced by consideration of city-wide interests

  • easier and cheaper for more candidates to stand for election to council

  • but more difficult for candidates representing city-wide interests, such as disabled people, to be elected

  • voters have a shorter list of candidates to consider and choose from at elections

  • but voters have less choice in who will represent them

  • councillors are easier to get in touch with locally and it is easier for residents to hold them accountable

  • but may encourage councillors to take a narrower, more local view in their decision-making rather than a city-wide view

Mixed At-Large & Ward system

  • voters vote for some councillors to represent the city as a whole and for some councillors to represent their local area or ward (i.e. a mix of the other two options)

  • the mixed ‘at-large’ and ward system of representation can be a way to balance the various pros and cons of both the ‘at-large’ system and the ward system

The majority of councils around Aotearoa New Zealand have a full ward system of representation

  • 53 out of 67 councils use the full ward system

  • 8 councils are elected 'at-large'

  • 6 councils are elected with a mix of 'at-large' and wards, including Hutt City Council

The decision on which system to chose needs to reflect the communities in the city and in particular if these are city-wide or more local in nature.

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