Local ElectionsOctober 11, 2019

All the interesting, funny, weird, and bad things we didn’t cover these local elections


Sorry about not covering everything that happened these local elections. To make it up to you, we’ve compiled all the stories we missed into an ultimate election-ending list.

The Spinoff local election coverage is entirely funded by The Spinoff Members. For more about becoming a member and supporting The Spinoff’s journalism, click here.

When people think of The Spinoff’s local elections section, they likely imagine a robust journalistic operation similar to the one depicted in the movie Spotlight. Many of them would be shocked to learn our method is mainly just Alex Braae driving aimlessly around the entire lower North Island while Josie Adams and I desperately weep over printouts of Craig Lord’s tweets.

We’ve tried our best to cover the nation’s election races as thoroughly as possible given those constraints, but so much has happened, and things have inevitably been missed. As a means of penance to both our readers and to democracy, I’ve put together this list of all the interesting, funny, weird, and bad things which didn’t get their name up in lights on The Spinoff’s homepage.

This man put up a sign 

“What a sign!” people exclaimed. “Ha ha ha,” they said.

The sign man was milkshake ducked by Spinoff editor Toby Manhire

Go to plagiarism jail, sign man.

C&R made a very startling claim

In a widely distributed brochure, C&R candidate Sarah Trotman claimed the Waitematā local board overspent its budget by 40% in the last financial year. Very damning and highly political stuff! The only problem was…

It was found to be baseless

The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that the C&R booklet claim was wrong and misleading. Still, most voters won’t see that ASA ruling so “making false claims” is once again the winner on the day.

C&R’s Mark Thomas insisted he lived on the floor of his election headquarters, not in his Remuera mansion

Mark Thomas is listed in his voting blurb as a local resident of the Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa ward. That’s because he named his election office on Dominion Rd as his principal place of residence. Left-leaning ticket City Vision says that claim is unlikely, point out that Thomas’s office is an empty hairdressing salon with no furniture besides a few foldaway seats and a trestle table, and he also owns a multi-million dollar house in Remuera. 

It has complained to the electoral commission, arguing Thomas misrepresented his place of residence. “It’s well-known in political circles that Mark Thomas lives with his family in a large Remuera home,” its media release says. Thomas says the allegation is “dirty politics”, and that he lived at the office while he was setting up for his election campaign. Meanwhile, Auckland Council says the office is in a Business Mixed Use Zone, and Thomas would have had to apply for a resource consent to make it a permanent residence. The candidate has since moved to an apartment on Eden Terrace.

There was also this very funny sign


Seven Sharp reporter Julian Lee accidentally stood for mayor in Mackenzie

Lee originally signed up to be mayor of the Mackenzie District as a joke for a Seven Sharp segment on uncontested election races. However, he forgot to withdraw his nomination and is now one of two contenders for the district’s mayoralty. This is his statement:

“I filed a story for Seven Sharp where I proclaimed to be running for mayor of Mackenzie – I even managed to get nominated for the role to show how easy the process is.  It was all a bit tongue in cheek, what I was trying to demonstrate was how many vacant council and community board positions there are nationwide and how easy it is to throw your hat in the ring. I made some wild claims and planned to withdraw my running following the story. 

“Unfortunately, I missed the deadline to withdraw. My mistake. My name still appears as one of two candidates for the Mackenzie mayoralty. I just want to let you all know I am not seriously running, I love my role at Seven Sharp and would not take the mayoralty if I happened to win the vote.”


Lee joins Whakatāne candidate Kay Boreham in pleading for as few votes as possible. Boreham accidentally enrolled to contend for council rather than community board, and doesn’t have time for the role. “It is absolutely imperative that people don’t vote for me,” she told the Rotorua Daily Post.

Hamilton mayoral candidate Jack Gielen made an election rap

Technically I’ve noted this before, but it deserves repeating: Hamilton candidate Jack Gielen wrote an election rap.

Gielen usually performs his rap while wearing a Native American headdress. Not good! He’s been accused of stalking funerals. Also bad! Still, we’ll always have the immortal lines: “Stop high rentals and profiteering / wealth distribution / sharing / boarding houses, upskilling everyone / responsible citizens having fun.” 

Another Hamilton candidate put out this terrible ad

Speaking of Hamilton candidates, one of the city’s sitting councillors, Garry Mallett, paid to place this in the Hamilton Press

Unsurprisingly, Mallett has been endorsed by Hobson’s Pledge. He is also known for using gay slurs in a meeting and being a climate denier.

On the other hand…

Fellow Hamilton candidate Louise Hutt came up with one of the election’s best political innovations. When Hutt, 26, got tired of being asked what she’d do for old people, 65-115, she decided to quiet the critics by joining Grey Power. It turns out the organisation doesn’t have an age limit. Hutt’s membership card recently arrived, and with it the rebuffed silence of those who doubted her commitment to the elderly.

The North Shore election race was bananas

This was covered in several of our stories, but it’s worth saying here: the election race on the North Shore was bizarre, and we need a Royal Commission into ‘What Was Going On?’. This is what we know:

1. There were a series of anonymously run Facebook pages. The first was United Shore Residents, which was devoted to running attack ads on incumbent councillors Richard Hills and Chris Darby. It was shut down and replaced by Concerned Shore Residents, which has a similar MO. Messages to Concerned Shore Residents were returned by a ‘Steve’, who didn’t give a second name. Speculation abounds (inside my head) as to Steve’s true identity.

2. A petition to save the Takapuna carpark was set up by someone called ‘Alan Wake’. The only issue: Alan Wake is the name of a video game character and his profile picture is a stock photo. Nearly all the links on his Facebook page are either devoted to saving the carpark, or promoting the work of a local photographer called Ilan Wittenberg.

3. Darby’s signs were consistently defaced with this kind of thing.

4. Hills complained to police over what he says were death threats lodged against him in March, and has alleged more threats have been made against him on Facebook during the election.

5. The North Shore should be officially listed by high risk travel destination by MFAT. Checkpoints need to be set up at the southern side of the Harbour Bridge. I will vote for any mayoral candidate who promises to make this happen.

A Wellington letter writer proposed a two-deaths-for-every-birth policy

Elections are a contest of ideas, and in Wellington one of those ideas is “letting two people die for every one that lives”.

This letter was originally highlighted by poet Bill Manhire, which serves to illustrate our literary community’s commitment to democracy and rigorous debate.

A C&R local board candidate was found to have posted xenophobic things to Facebook

John Subritzky is standing on the Communities and Residents ticket for Whau Local Board. Like many Boomers, he has written a lot of bad Facebook posts. Most of his were critical of Muslims, refugees, “Arabs”, or a mixture of all three. This is an example to give you an idea of the tone.

Labour’s Mt Roskill MP Michael Wood posted several other examples in this Twitter thread.

Also standing in Whau: Paul and Kathryn Davies, who were dismissed from their jobs at Harcourts and Ray White after it emerged that they’d posted racist or xenophobic things to Facebook. Good luck Whau voters!

Todd Niall got shaken up

Stuff’s local elections supremo Todd Niall is known for being rabidly mild-mannered. This column is a strong critique by normal standards, but an insane rant when adjusted to the Niall zen scale. 

A regional council chairman thinks climate denial is some pretty interesting stuff

Horizons Regional Council chairman Bruce Gordon distributed a misleading video on climate change, telling colleagues it was “a very good listen”. As Stuff’s Charlie Mitchell notes, being able to identify unreliable information is one of the things you want from your elected officials.

A Timaru mayoral candidate went missing

Stuff journalists couldn’t track down Kari (AJ) Mohoao, and you know what they say: if you can’t be tracked down by Stuff journalists, you don’t exist. 

The West Coast was offered an enticing crop of council candidates

Coasters had a smorgasbord of outsider mayoral and council contenders to choose from this election. Among them was former Nelson candidate Richard Ormastan, who campaigns against the use of money, lawyer Doug Taffs, who tried to thwart a police breath test by stuffing coins in his mouth, and local rapper Aaron Intemann, who wrote this song.

Dale the Avondale Spider suffered a political awakening

Once thought to be a lifeless, slightly terrifying statue in Avondale, Dale the spider became politically activated for the election, and began posting to Facebook. His first order of business: supporting John Tamihere in the mayoral race. “I like the sound of Craig Lord,” said one commenter in response.

Correction: I was under the impression Dale’s posts were written by the spider himself. It’s since been brought to my attention his Facebook page is ghostwritten by Avondale human Duncan Macdonald. My apologies.

John Tamihere wore this bracelet

Soon after Tamihere said ‘sieg heil’ at a mayoral debate, he posted a video to Facebook where he could be seen wearing this bracelet.

On first glance it looks like a swastika. On second glance, it’s probably the symbol which looks like a swastika but isn’t one. Could this be a clever troll by old JT? Yes.

The Spinoff’s election scandals

Craig Lord may think The Spinoff are tossers, but you won’t find any evidence of that on The Spinoff. In fact, if you get your information from The Spinoff, you’ll believe its election coverage has been exemplary and that you should read it all here.

The Spinoff local election coverage is entirely funded by The Spinoff Members. For more about becoming a member and supporting The Spinoff’s journalism, click here.

Keep going!