Some are silly, some are sincere, some are silent. Alex Casey and Tara Ward brave the strange new world of council TikTok accounts.
Social media can be a hotbed of opinion, misinformation and chaos, but it’s also a place to remind people to get their cat spayed or up their recycling game. It’s an approach more New Zealand councils are embracing – 19 out of 78 of them, at least – utilising “newfangled” ways of “communication” to access a younger, harder-to-engage with audience. These councils are using TikTok’s short, snappy videos to amuse, to entertain and to inform in new and often unusual ways, even if not everyone’s a fan.
To find out for ourselves, we delved into local government TikTok accounts around the country to sort out who’s down with the kids and who still has the ick for the Tik.
Vibe: A truly charming account that could do with many more followers, with content spanning everything from the benefits of bar shampoo to a rave room in the mobile library. We’re particularly fond of the one where the staff unbox a flash new DSLR and, well, the results speak for themselves. Also, anyone who decides to launch an account with an environmentally-charged parody of Lou Bega’s ‘Mambo Number Five’ deserves a purple heart for bravery.
Vibe: An eclectic mix of peacocks, pigs and pipes, while also celebrating the restorative power of corn. This is an account that knows its own strengths. Like the city of Invercargill itself, an understated delight.
Vibe: A very strange and sparse account from the biggest council in the country, containing just two videos that could not be more different. There’s one of our old mate Maxwell the cat bopping around to remind people to have their say on the annual budget (984 views), and another wanderlust-y drone-y travel video about Martins Bay Holiday Park (1235 views). Eerie.
Vibe: An empty husk with nary a video to its name. In the words of philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, “in nothingness, there is everything”. Makes you think.
Vibe: Has not published a single video and the bio simply reads “yams”. Five stars, flawless.
Vibe: This account aims to celebrate Kirikiriroa “one TikTok at a time”, and so far, it is up to seven TikToks. In the words of Kath and Kim’s Kim, who pops up to reflect on the historical transformation of Garden Place during the last one hundred years: it’s nice, it’s different, it’s unusual.
Vibe: No likes, no videos, no bio, not a care in the world. We could all learn a thing or two about #lookingup from the Wahakatane District Council TikTok.
Vibe: Masterful. The biggest account in the country has already gone viral heaps, most notably last year for this chilling horror film aiming to terrify Palmy residents into voting in the local body elections. Other greatest hits include this talented promotional video of the stunning Maxwell-infused cityscape, this PSA about brushing your teeth with the tap off, and this eye-opening journey of a returned library book. Suitably silly, surreal and sometimes even sweet. Bin love!
Vibe: Perplexing. A lone TikTok of an even lonelier Zoom council meeting, featuring a cameo from American TikTok star Cody Taurus and his noisy dog. Democracy at its finest.
Vibe: An informative, upbeat account with an environmental focus, covering everything from the work of the biosecurity dive team to newly restored wetlands. One of its most popular videos features Compliance Officer Wayne explaining the ins and outs of a sediment retention pond. “GO WAYNE” someone commented. Go Wayne, indeed.
Vibe: One critic called this account “so cringe it could reset broken toes”, but maybe that’s why the Wellington City Council doesn’t want us using our feet to press crossing signal buttons. In other news, it appears Pedro Pascal is now a ratepayer of Wellington (you can find him using the cycle lanes and eating his lunch to save the planet) and there’s a curious tribute to the weird names Wellingtonians give their dogs. Yes, we’re talking about you, Sir Tobias Wigglebottom.
Vibe: Only four videos, but one of those featured Kermit the Frog. A bold choice.
Vibe: Another blank page, another social media account yet to feature any social media.
Vibe: A good mix of earnest and weird content, including an address from the mayor post-floods and an inspirational video about local kids getting the macron added to signs for Ōmokoroa. A few funny (and extremely janky) ones thrown into good measure, drawing on popular sounds from Mean Girls, The Kardashians and Love Island. As the bio reads, category is: making changes in your community.
Vibe: Dive into the solitary video from November 2022 asking for the best swimming spots in Taranaki, which has been watched 198 times. Taranaki hard core? Almost.
Vibe: As bleak as an August hoar frost. No bio, no videos, no surprises.
Vibe: Surprisingly the first account I have come across that appears to force councillors to dance at gunpoint in the name of content, “Purple dress carried this. QUEEN. 👑💜” one user wrote. “She’s our mayor 😍” PCC replied. The most watched video is this emotional Titanic homage to shopping trolleys dumped in the harbour. I hope James Cameron is taking notes.
Vibe: Zero. Silence is golden, or in this case, Golden Bay.
Vibes: Call the cyber-police, it appears a civilian simply named “Jack” has commandeered the @dunedincitycouncil handle, with the bio simply reading “I am not the Dunedin city council”. Given the profile photo is Taylor Swift in front of an exploding car, it is safe to assume that the Jack in question is Jack Antonoff. Groundbreaking, subversive, guerilla. Classic TikTok.