Government ditches bill to lower voting age

The Coalition Government has ditched a bill to allow 16-year-olds to vote in local body elections. 

Brought by the previous Labour Government, the bill would've required a 50 percent majority to pass and, with the Coalition now holding a majority in Parliament, it would be doomed. 

Local Government Minister Simeon Brown said on Friday he had written to the chairperson of the Justice Committee to inform him the Government does not intend to support the bill and requested any consideration of it be ended.

"Ratepayers and residents expect their local councils to be sticking to the core business of efficiently and effectively delivering local infrastructure and services.

"Worrying about how to implement a new voting age regime would be a costly distraction for councils who have enough issues to deal with right now. The Coalition Government will not entertain the previous Government's voting age and is therefore withdrawing the bill from any further consideration." 

In November 2022, the Supreme Court declared the voting age of 18 inconsistent with the right to be free of discrimination based on age.  

After the decision, then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Government would draft legislation to bring the voting age down to 16 for general elections. However, the legislation was unlikely to pass as it would have required support from 75 percent of politicians. 

In March last year, not long after Chris Hipkins took over as Prime Minister, he announced the Government had axed Ardern's plan to introduce legislation to lower the voting age at general elections. Instead, he said the Government would focus on lowering the age for local body elections.

Changes to the legislation for local elections would've only required a normal 50 percent majority. 

The Independent Electoral Review, established by the previous Government, made recommendations earlier this month which included lowering the voting age to 16. The Coalition Government immediately ruled this recommendation out.