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Election winners celebrate while losers lick their wounds

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Election winners celebrate while losers lick their wounds

Oct 9 2022

Absolute scenes in Gore cliffhanger

Ben Bell (left, pictured here with some sausages) and Tracy Hicks

The preliminary results are in and the 11-vote advantage for Gore District mayor of 18 years Tracy Hicks is gone. Gone! With the late votes that were popped in ballot boxes on Saturday morning now added to the mix, the young challenger, 23-year-old Ben Bell has pushed ahead in the preliminary results, and now has a lead of 13 votes.

It’s not over yet. There are still special votes to count, though only 67 of them. We’re going to have to bite our nails until Thursday to hear the final result. Trust the process. Stuff has more on this stone cold thriller here. (To be clear, this is not a bluff. That’s part of Invercargill City Council.)

Slime celebrates losing

Slime, jumping for joy by a fertiliser plant on Otago Harbour. Photo: Toby Manhire

The greenest candidate of them all, at least literally, has fallen short in its run for the Otago Regional Council. Slime the Nitrate Monster, a contender formerly known as Jennifer Shulzitski, told The Spinoff during the campaign it was seeking a place on the council to promote the cause of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser, pollution and avarice.

Slime the Nitrate Monster at Moller Park, Dunedin (Photo: Andrew)

Slime finished last in the Dunedin constituency, though with a creditable 2,764 votes. How was Slime taking the defeat? “Slime is happy. The people have not spoken,” Slime told The Spinoff. “A less than 40% voter turnout in Dunedin insures pollution will be prioritised over people. Polluters and irrigation companies still dominate the ORC, so hurray for Slime. Thank you humans for your apathy and/or distraction.”

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Wayne Brown’s plan for his first day and first week in the office

Wayne Brown. Photo: Supplied

The new Auckland mayor is eschewing interviews today and tomorrow morning, but he “may make some brief comments to media” upon his arrival at Auckland Council HQ tomorrow morning, according a release from his campaign team. The plan is to meet council CEO Jim Stabback, then “spend most of the day being briefed on the council’s books, its economic forecasts over the next three years, and all contingent liabilities and other risks. That includes not just the council itself, but also the CCOs [council controlled organisations] and all the other entities in which ratepayers have an interest.”

The update continues: “A brief statement may be made later in the day on the state of the council’s finances. Through the rest of the week, Mr Brown plans to meet with all members of the new governing board to congratulate them in person and to discuss how they can best help deliver the change Auckland voters have demanded. Mr Brown also plans to meet with the leadership of the Independent Māori Statutory Board and with outgoing Auckland councillor Efeso Collins to discuss how they can help contribute to the change Aucklanders have voted for.”

Call for independent inquiry as local election turnout teeters under 40%

Image: Archi Banal

Local Government NZ is calling on central government to launch an inquiry into local body elections, with turnout tracking to fall beneath 40% across the country. “We want to see a short, sharp and independent review that should feed into the Future for Local Government Review as well as the review of Parliamentary Electoral Law,” said Susan Freeman-Greene, chief executive of the association. “Ultimately, we want practical recommendations that are taken on board by the government so we can make voting much more accessible in the local elections in 2025.

Progress results put turnout at around 36%, by LGNZ’s estimate, with that expected to increase by two or three percentage points once votes cast on Saturday and special votes are added to the count.

The association’s president, Stuart Crosby, a former mayor of Tauranga, said: “LGNZ wants to work with central government to review how elections can be delivered more consistently and impactfully, including communication, engagement, the practicality of postal voting, and things like access to ballot boxes in more remote parts of the country.”

Select committee inquiries after both the 2016 and 2019 elections called for the management of local elections to be centralised in the cause of lifting low turnout.

New Auckland mayor Wayne Brown declines media interviews for second morning

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After last night pulling out of scheduled Sunday morning interviews with Q+A, Newstalk ZB and RNZ, the newly elected mayor of Auckland, Wayne Brown has turned down invitations to appear for Monday morning broadcast interviews.

Brown, who defeated Efeso Collins by the wide margin of 55,000 votes based on yesterday’s count, would not be doing interviews tomorrow morning, his campaign confirmed. “The incoming mayor’s priorities and platform are clear from months of campaigning, media and debate, and were given a large mandate by voters,” a spokesperson told The Spinoff. “Mr Brown is now getting down to work on opening the books and meeting with other elected members and officials, to progress that platform.”

Successfully elected mayors from major centres across the country took part this morning on the TVNZ programme and on radio, and most are expected to again front for breakfast shows tomorrow. “We will have all the other mayors from New Zealand’s ‘main’ cities,” said Tom Day, producer on the Today FM programme Tova, in a tweet announcing Brown had declined to appear. “Not the greatest look.”

In an interview with The Spinoff during the campaign, Brown said he considered the media coverage of him to have been narrow and nitpicking, “a very small bit of what I am”. Last month he pulled out of a Herald debate, accusing its host Simon Wilson of bias. Acrimony towards the Herald journalist tipped over when he was captured in a “hot mic” moment by Newshub Nation Auckland calling Wilson “a prick” and saying when he was mayor he would place pictures of him in urinals so people could urinate on him.

Disinformation candidates fall flat in local elections

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Despite an extensive and well-organised campaign by the anti-vaccine, misinformation-peddling group Voices for Freedom, candidates linked to VFF and others with links to conspiracy movements failed to make a serious impression in this weekend’s local elections.

Analysis by Stuff found that of more than 200 candidates identified as having such links, fewer than a dozen had been elected, while “several incumbent councillors with those views lost their positions”.

The result suggests a broad rejection of the values espoused by such groups, particularly given that, across the country, a lack of competition means that one in every two candidates was elected.

The most successful of the active VFF members was Jaspreet Boparai, a regular host of the group’s “Freedom TV”, where she issues regular false claims about a “UN agenda” to control local communities and has ran several video seminars for potential candidates over the last two months. Boparai was elected to Southland District Council, coming third in the Waiau Aparima Ward, which returns three councillors.

VFF’s other chief organiser for the local elections was Tane Webster. In early August he urged members to “throw your weight around” to make headway in low-turnout elections. In one of numerous videos posted on Telegram last week, he said: “If we need to hold people’s hand to get them out to vote, we can do that.” Webster failed in his bid for a place on the New Plymouth District Council but won a seat on the Puketapu-Bell Block Community Board.

National launches ‘pothole of the week’ project

Do you feel lucky, pothole? Simeon Brown takes aim

The National Party says the local election results yesterday offer a clear vindication of their opposition to Three Waters, but today they’re seizing on another issue of local concern: potholes. Transport spokesperson Simeon Brown is launching today a “Pothole of the Week” contest. “Kiwis are sick and tired of all the potholes peppering New Zealand’s roads which are damaging vehicles and causing havoc for motorists,” he said in a statement. “We’re asking Kiwis to sign our petition and send us pictures of the potholes plaguing their community so that the transport minister can see just how bad things are. Each week, we will highlight the worst pothole, with the aim of getting the government to sort the issue.”

The word “pothole” appeared 69 times in local election candidate profiles at Policy.nz this year.

He added: “Labour is far too focused on its pet projects, like Auckland light rail, and has forgotten about the basics. People in Tauranga and Rodney have taken to repairing the potholes themselves rather than waiting around for NZTA or local authorities to fix them.”

Waka Kotahi / NZTA says the largest ever road renewal programme began last month and will continue to April 2023. The pothole plethora is “down to a combination of current network conditions and the wet winter”, a spokesperson told Stuff last week.

People should only take photos of potholes, Brown cautioned, “if and when it is safe to do so”.

Do you feel lucky, pothole? Simeon Brown takes aim

A thriller in Gore

Ben Bell (left, pictured here with some sausages) and Tracy Hicks

It doesn’t get much closer than the race for the Gore District mayoralty. Incumbent Tracy Hicks holds the lead, with 2,181 votes, just ahead of challenger Ben Bell on 2,170. That means the progress count (about 90% of the total) separates them by 11 votes. A cliffhanger.

Bell, a 23-year-old businessperson who was just five years old when Hicks became mayor in 2004, told RNZ: “Around the community, everyone was saying it was 50-50, and they were bang on .”

A preliminary result is expected later this afternoon. If it’s still close, they’ll be biting their nails until final results towards the end of the week.

Ben Bell (left, pictured here with some sausages) and Tracy Hicks

What was the message for government in local election results?

Image: Archi Banal

It was “a pretty rough old day for the centre-left”, said John Campbell, introducing Q+A this morning. “The message is people aren’t happy right now,” added political editor Jessica Mutch, noting that the National Party would have woken up delighted about the trends evidenced in local election results. Former National Party pollster and commentator David Farrar went further. It was “a disaster for the left”, he wrote, beneath the headline “Slaughter of the lambs”.

Among the big rightward shifts was the sizable victory for Wayne Brown over Labour endorsed Efeso Collins in Auckland, Phil Mauger defeating David Meates in Christchurch, and Aaron Hawkins ousted in Dunedin by Jules Radich. 

The Wellington region bucked the trend, though it was a former Green chief of staff, Tory Whanau, who won the mayoralty, with current Labour MP Paul Eagle finishing fourth. Campbell Barry, standing on a Labour ticket, won in a close race for Hutt City while in Porirua, Anita Baker, a vocal proponent of Three Waters reforms, won in a landslide.  It was a great day for the Greens on the regional council.

But changes emanating from central government coursed through local body contests at every end of the country, Three Waters reforms chief among them. In Whanganui, for example, the water overhaul featured prominently – opposition to the legislation was the top priority of Andrew Tripe, who defeated the Labour-friendly sitting mayor, Hamish McDouall.  

Difficult for progressive candidates up and down the country.’ Photo: supplied

In Dunedin last night, Hawkins told RNZ left-leaning candidates were hobbled by central government changes. “It always seemed obvious that the breadth of the reform agenda was going to make it difficult for progressive candidates up and down the country. I don’t like to be proven right but it seems that are what we are seeing.”

Nick Smith, the former National MP yesterday elected mayor of Nelson told Q+A this morning that results in Nelson and across the country pointed to “a real anger around the government on Three Waters. Unless the government has a deathwish they do need to revisit that  … There’s been a real failure of central government to properly engage and I’m hoping yesterday’s result will be a bit of a circuit breaker.”