Local elections 2022


12th September, 2022

2022 local elections: Business operators to lead voter turnout

As New Zealanders prepare to head to the polls in the coming weeks, we take a look at some of the pressing issues for small and medium business operators.

New Zealand’s small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) are ready to exercise their democratic rights over the coming weeks, with voting in the local elections due to begin on 16 September and closing 8 October.

In fact, business operators could be more engaged in the local elections thant the general population, according to new data from MYOB.

Polling 570 SMEs from across the country found 93 percent of respondents planned on voting this year — a much higher figure than the overall voter turnout achieved at the 2019 local elections of just 42 percent.

The findings, which indicate business owners are paying close attention to the influence local government has on their communities, are contained within the latest MYOB SME Snapshot.

Key highlights from the SME Snapshot:

  • 28% of SMEs said they feel local governments have ‘significant’ decision-making power in their area, while 41% said they had ‘some’ power
  • 37% said they feel connected to their local council while 32% feel disconnected
  • 40% believe their local council understands their business

Wellington restaurant owner Mike Egan was recently quoted in Stuff.co.nz regarding local government and its impact on business success.

“In order for us to have a sustainable business we need a city that provides an environment that can meet the expectations and needs of our customers and employees,” said Egan.

“A city that all aspects of it are being enhanced or even just maintained.

MYOB’s Head of Go-to-Market Jo Tozer provided further context to the results.

“It’s not unusual for SME owners to be more involved in their local area,” said Tozer.

“They feel passionately about what changes and improvements will not only benefit businesses, but their community as a whole.”

SMEs split as to whether local councils are in touch

In terms of what’s driving the sentiment among those feeling disconnected from local government, top responses showed this is due to: councils not engaging with them, feeling there’s no action being taken after they’ve contacted the council about something, and not being kept up to date on work that might impact their business.

Despite most SMEs feeling their council is connected to the local business community, only 16 percent of business owners and decision-makers surveyed believe council support for small business is better now than it was three years ago, while most (45%) believe there’s been no change and a third (33%) believe it’s worse.

“As they would hope to get from any elected official, SMEs want to see a level of understanding which will translate into positive action,” said Tozer.

“Ultimately, it’s about ensuring decisions take into account the impacts to business when considering the overarching effects of any change on the wider community.”

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Business priorities ahead of local elections

For those about to come into local power, SMEs are clear on which areas they’d like to see prioritised for further action over the next three years.

Top 4 priorities for local governments according to SMEs:

  • Roads (58%)
  • Infrastructure (55%)
  • Water and wastewater management (44%)
  • Public transport services (37%)

“While the priority areas SMEs would like to see more action around appear to be focused more on broader societal needs, the knock-on effects that investment in these areas would have on the business community will certainly be a consideration,” said Tozer.

“We also know that when it comes to what most influences who they will vote for, it’s not just about business. The majority are looking for a candidate whose values they feel align with their own, and more than half of SME owners and decision-makers say they research the candidates and vote for who they think will make the most positive difference in their community.”

While many SMEs want to see action on water and wastewater management, a majority (57 percent) said they ‘disagree’ with the Three Waters reforms, while a quarter (25 percent) are unsure.

Just 18 percent are in clear support of the reforms.

As far as changes to the structure of local government go, when asked whether local councils in major metropolitan areas should amalgamate into super cities, nearly half (48 percent) of SMEs polled said ‘no’, while 27 percent said ‘yes’, leaving a quarter undecided.