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Tina Tiller!
Tina Tiller!

Local Elections 2022September 30, 2022

Campaign word count: What are the candidates banging on about?

Tina Tiller!
Tina Tiller!

From pipes to potholes, from libraries to love – tally-ho.

As of yesterday, more than 1,500 responses from candidates peddling their wares in the 2022 local elections were on display on – it includes half the candidates across the country, and around three-quarters of candidates in the major races. (If you haven’t already, you can zip across to the site to sample and compare the positions of those contesting for mayoralties, councils and boards.)

Taken together, across more than 500 elections, those candidates’ blurbs amount to more than 720,000 words, just slightly less than the complete works of William Shakespeare, who is not standing for office this month.

Some of those words appear more frequently than others. We ran some searches. (Note: in all of the below, relevant variations on the word are included; eg “road” includes “roads”, “roadways”, and so on.) 


The number of times the word water flows through, including 296 wastewater, 289 stormwater and 174 freshwater. Three waters? Runneth over: 1,719 mentions. 

Infrastructure appears 1,217 times. Much like Nena’s Luftballons, pipes get 99 mentions. Pollution: 201. Sewage appears 74 times, just pipped by its cousin sewerage on 75


The total mentions of road – including 11 road cones. Traffic: 263. Congestion: 205. Cars crop up 160 times. One-way appears 31 times. Motorway: 14. Highway: 105.

Cycling and bikes appear 1,510 times. That includes 358 mentions of cycleways and bike lanes. Potholes 69. Speed bumps (including judder bars): 14. Roundabout: 24. Footpath: 295. Pedestrians: 161.

On the bus: 306. Train: 114. Tram: 12. Gondola: 2. Monorail? Pathetically, zero.


Co-governance is a hot topic across central and local politics; those 116 appearances across include invocations in support and in opposition. The word community, meanwhile, appears a massive 2,997 times, and that’s excluding references to community boards. Diverse and diversity (but not diversify) are big: 775. Children: 266. Poverty, 24. Homeless: 206. Vulnerable, 119. (Un)affordable: a whopping 732.


Appearances of the word Māori. Mahi crops up 53 times. Whānau: 128. Aotearoa: 38. Te reo: 15. Another Māori word, kiwi, appears 101 times. 


Mentions of climate, which includes 922 of climate change and 20 of climate emergency. Global warming surfaces 11 times. Sea levels: 77. Floods: 401. Environment: 1,306. Resilience: 504. Mitigation: 238. Adaptation: 132. Managed retreat appears 14 times. Weather is there 173 times. Trees: 214.


Mentions of culture – though that’s a big old word, and ranges from ethnic communities to council interactions. Toxic appears 17 times, though that too can refer to biological or social situations. Dysfunctional pops up 10 times and consensus, 24.  

Words that involve leading pipe up 715  times, including 269 of leadership. Honesty appears 113 times, dishonesty 2 times. Truth crops up 10 times. Central government gets a striking 482 mentions. 


Total references to sport. There are 400 for recreation, 498 for parks, 44 for exercise and 398 for walking. Art appears 272 times, with music 94, literature 15, film 29, theatre (including the buildings) 52 and poetry 2. Library appears 165 times, swimming pool 65, museum 121 and gallery 32. There are 377 references to rubbish and 660 to recycling.


Rates are a jazz standard in local elections. Money gets 349 and budget 254. Austerity? Once (against). Debt: 389. Deficit: 18. Borrow: 63. Efficiency: 409 times. Assets: 391


Mentions of business. Hospitality chalks up 54 uses, narrowly beating hospitals on 42. CBD: 267. Tourism: 361. Crime: 95. Police: 86. Ram raids: 8


Housing, including 25 of emergency housing. Motel appears 16 times. Density appears 237 times, in relation to housing rather than smearing rivals, with intensification 224 times. Heritage: 142. Nimby: 2.


That’s the number of times vaccine (including vaccination and vax) is mentioned. 

WEF or World Economic Forum, a popular focus of the conspiracy-inclined crowd, appears just 3 times. United Nations: 9. The actual word conspiracy? Zilch. The word mandate is there 40 times. Media (mostly not glowing): 89. Lockdown: 10. Variations on the word free (not always in the liberty sense) appear 576 times, including freedom 48 times and 3 for free speech. Fluoride: 41. 1080: 62. 5G: 3. Agenda appears 70 times. Socialist, 11. Tyranny? Just the once. There is no mention of gulag


God moves in a mysterious way, and appears seven times across Christian gets 5 mentions, with 1 for Muslim and none for Islam, Judaism or Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu or atheist? The word faith pops up 36 times. Church: 9.


Mentions of happy. Other adjectives? Sad: 50. Angry: just 2. Beautiful: 149. Disappointing: 9. Wonderful: 55. Useful: 24. Useless: 3. Boring: 5. Exciting: 63. Racist: 5. Worry, worried and worrying collectively appear 27 times. The word hate appears 43 times, but love always wins, coming in here at 317.

This article was updated to correct an undercount of “climate”. 

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