Irish expat expert ranks STV voting Number 1

13 September 2019

As the race for New Plymouth’s Mayor, Councillors and Community Board members heats up, an Irish expat says voters will find Single Transferrable Vote, or STV, as easy to use as 1, 2, 3.

Ireland has used the STV voting system in general elections since 1922 and Sorcha Kearney Wolnik, a midwife who moved to New Plymouth in 2013 with her partner and their three children, says it’s regarded by everyone as normal and much fairer than the old ‘first past the post’ system.

Voter turnout in local body elections is dropping around New Zealand and the New Plymouth District currently sits at about 47%. Elected members – Mayor, Councillors and Community Board Members -  make big decisions that touch our everyday lives and NPDC manages assets of about $3.3 billion and has an annual operating budget of about $155 million.

NPDC will use the STV for the first time this year but voters should be familiar with the system as it has been used in District Health Board (DHB) elections for years.  

Essentially voters rank their candidates and use numbers instead of ticks to cast their votes. Number 1 goes to the favourite candidate and so on. Voters can rank as few or as many candidates as they wish.

The new process aims to get a fairer mix of Elected Members around the NPDC governance table and Sorcha hailed STV for empowering voters.

“I’ve voted in several general elections back in Ireland and I can wholeheartedly recommend STV,” says Sorcha. 

“It is definitely a more inclusive system.”

Sorcha, who recently co-founded Girls’ Minds Matter, a community-based initiative promoting mental wellbeing for young women and teens, says she remembers going to the polling station as a young girl with her mum and dad so understanding STV started with watching them numbering the candidates in the polling booth. 

“When we think of elections, it’s always about who’s getting your number one and who else will get your votes.  It allows for a great discussion without feeling like you have to pick one candidate out of everyone.”

How to vote – Single Transferable Vote (STV)

  • Many people will have used it before and the DHB has been using it for years.
  • You use numbers to rank, rather than ticks, to cast your vote.
  • You rank your favourite candidates in preferred order, eg 1, 2, 3.
  • Number one is your first choice and so on.
  • You can rank as many or as few candidates as you like.
  • If you want to know more go to newplymouthnz.com/STV.


Key election dates:

20-26 September Voting documents arrive via post. 
20 September

Postal voting opens or you can drop your vote into a Ballot Box at one of NPDC’s facilities:  

Civic Centre Liardet Street, the Bell Block, Inglewood and Waitara Library and Service Centres, Puke Ariki (Library and Museum), Ōākura Library, Mobile Library, Todd Energy Aquatic Centre, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, TSB Showplace, TSB Stadium.    

October 2      Recommended last day to post votes. Or drop your voting papers into any NPDC facility (see above).
October 5 

National Vote Day.

Drop your vote at one of the following locations between 9am-3pm: Civic Centre, Liardet Street (drive-thru), the Bell Block, Inglewood and Waitara Library and Service Centres, Puke Ariki (Library and Museum), Todd Energy Aquatic Centre, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, TSB Showplace, New World Merrilands, Countdown Spotswood, Pak n’ Save, 4 Squares in Urenui, Okato and Ōākura, Bell Block Warehouse, Huatoki Plaza.

October 6 - 11 Last chance to drop your vote into one of NPDC’s facilities.
Noon, 11 October Ballot Boxes close at Puke Ariki (Museum and Library), Ōākura Library, Mobile Library, Todd Energy Aquatic Centre, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, TSB Showplace, TSB Stadium.
Noon, 11 October – 
Noon 12 October    
Last chance to vote. NPDC Civic Centre, Liardet Street, and the Bell Block, Inglewood and Waitara Library and Service Centres, taking final votes. 
Noon, 13 October Preliminary results announced.
Sorcha Wolnik