Race briefing: New Plymouth aka the poo emoji election

In our latest local elections 2019 race briefing (read the rest here), Tara Ward goes into the New Plymouth election campaign, which is notable for being filled with pictures of turds.

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Please explain the poo stuff

Ahh, New Plymouth. The nipple of the North Island, the city that isn’t Palmerston North. Best known for its black sand beaches, snow capped Mounga and for electing a councillor who once starred on Celebrity Treasure Island, New Plymouth is now making waves over a $30,000 media campaign aimed to lift local election voter turnout above a shitty 47%.

You say excrement, I say excitement, because this is a movement like no other. The timing’s not ideal, given New Plymouth District Council are being prosecuted by the Taranaki Regional Council for spilling 1.5 million litres of raw sewage into a local stream, but anything that encourages people to vote is a good thing, right? It doesn’t matter that Checkpoint’s Lisa Owen couldn’t stop laughing while she read a news item about it, right? Poo! It’s the true beating heart of democracy.


The New Plymouth District boundary runs north to the Mōkau river mouth, south to Tariki and back across to the coast to Ōkato, home of New Zealand’s best hot chips. Unsurprisingly, it includes the city of New Plymouth (Ngāmotu) as well as the smaller towns of Waitāra, Bell Block, Inglewood, Ōakura and Urenui, and is home to about 110,000 people.

If award-winning hot chips aren’t prize enough, check out this helpful map on the NPDC website, which suggests the region is officially full of shit.

What are the issues?

Yarrow Stadium rebuild

The issue dominating mayoral debates so far is the contentious Yarrow Stadium rebuild. The decision to spend $50 million on repairs was made earlier this year and there’s little the mayor can do to change it now, but residents are obviously still pissed off about being forced to pay an annual stadium rates levy to cover the multi-million dollar rebuild.

Len Lye Centre

Bagging the Len Lye Centre/Govett Brewster Art Gallery is one of Taranaki’s favourite pastimes, and this week the centre came under fire again when it was revealed that visitor numbers were massively below target. Last year NPDC introduced LLC/GBAG admission fees for tourists, but with lower visitor numbers, any revenue is failing to make a dent in the centre’s running costs. There’s no poo emoji art on display in the LLC, which might explain it.

Dump that, there actually is.


Climate change and the oil and gas industry

Whether it’s oil, gas or poo emojis, Taranaki’s economy relies on the natural resources lurking deep within its heaving bowels. But with the increasing pressures of climate change, the region faces the challenge of transitioning away from its reliance on the oil and gas industry. In May, the government announced a new $27 million dollar clean energy centre for Taranaki, signalling the beginning of a shift towards building a more sustainable economy.


It’s everywhere.

Who is running?

There are six contenders for mayor, and it’s a diverse mix of candidates. Sadly, Mr Hankey’s not standing, but there’s accountant Irene Godkin, community worker Kuvarji, Greg “I am a straightforward guy” Mackay, advocate Bill Simpson, and businessman Max Brough, who’s pulling a Craig Lord and campaigning on a promise not to make campaign promises.

Incumbent mayor Neil Holdom is standing for a second term after “accidentally” winning last time, and it could be a one horse race given none of his opposition have experience on council. Also, Holdom mentions the word ‘management’ 11 times in his official candidate blurb but fails to include the word ‘poo’ even once. Make of that what you will.

Likely winner: in the words of the Gambler, you gotta know when to fold ‘em, know when to Holdom.

What’s the voting method?

The best one: Single Transferable Vote (STV).

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