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Tubby Hansen with his rusty and mildewed truck, which he believes is being sabotaged. (Photo: Alden Williams/Stuff)
Tubby Hansen with his rusty and mildewed truck, which he believes is being sabotaged. (Photo: Alden Williams/Stuff)

PoliticsOctober 5, 2022

An interview with Tubby Hansen, who’s run in every Christchurch election since 1969

Tubby Hansen with his rusty and mildewed truck, which he believes is being sabotaged. (Photo: Alden Williams/Stuff)
Tubby Hansen with his rusty and mildewed truck, which he believes is being sabotaged. (Photo: Alden Williams/Stuff)

His name has been a fixture on Christchurch voting papers for more than half a century, and his election booklet blurbs are considered by some to be ‘precious works of art‘. Who is the mysterious Tubby Hansen?

This story was first published on Stuff.

On a tidy suburban street in south Christchurch, one house stands out.

The weatherboards are painted in lilac and yellow stripes, while the window frames are pink. A truck parked in the driveway has four flat tyres and is streaked with rust and mildew. The cabin is filled with polystyrene packaging and the flatbed is loaded with branches.

On the front lawn stands a small wooden billboard that offers a clue to the man who lives in this house. The billboard is painted grey, but features the handwritten slogan “Progressive nudist for Spreydon ward councillor. Vote Tubby.”

The man who lives in this house is called Tubby Hansen and he is a bit of a local character. He has stood in every general election and mayoral race in Christchurch since 1969. Over more than five decades and 34 elections, he has attracted a grand total of 9,468 votes. In one general election he got 10 votes.

Hansen’s candidate photographs from the 1971 mayoral election, left, the 1980 campaign and in 1998.

During every election he runs ads in The Press newspaper. Some outline his ideas for the city, like a limit on house prices and replacing the “inhumane” metal seats in bus shelters. But other ads feature nightmarish stories about the use of an “X-ray electronic cruelty machine” to sting people, a “tingle ray” deployed at council meetings, and surveillance bugs hidden in radios.

After each election, he runs an ad personally thanking the handful of people who voted for him.

But who is Tubby Hansen? And why has he run for office so many times? I knock on his front door to find out.

It takes a while for him to come to the door and open all the various locks. But once the door swings open, there is Hansen wearing a black top and tracksuit trousers with white hair and a neat beard. Behind him we can see a lawnmower in his hallway and a chaos of papers and boxes.

He smiles when he hears I am from Stuff and is happy to chat. He walks with a stick to his front lawn and asks me to grab a plastic chair for him to sit on.

He immediately begins complaining about his swollen knee.

“I haven’t hurt my knee,’’ he says. “I can tell the police about it, but I can’t tell you publicly. But I can say that I am being masered​ on the knee.”

He calmly explains that a maser​ is an electro-magnetic laser that is being used to target his knee at night. “It is an invisible ray. The political left is trying to stop me. They try to stop me with their bloody masers and interfering with my truck.”

He thinks his truck is being sabotaged? “If they can cause constant repairs it gobbles up my savings and then I can’t run in the elections.”

We both look at his forlorn-looking truck. I suggest it might have bigger problems than sabotage. “It would work if it was put right,’’ he says.

Tubby Hansen has stood in every Christchurch election since 1969 (Photo: Alden Williams/Stuff)

So, why has he stood in so many elections? “I like to raise issues that the other candidates don’t.”

I ask what kind of issues, and he talks about a new development on Lincoln Road in Addington that has a dangerously narrow footpath.

Talking to Hansen feels similar to reading his election ads and campaign material. He flips from the fantastical to the everyday with uncanny comic timing. His 2004 mayoral pitch, included in the information pack that comes with voting papers, is a classic example:

“The use of a stingray [sic], and a tingle ray at election meetings and a very hot ray which can pass through walls is not acceptable, candidates should have the use of a council car.”

In one pitch, when standing for the Canterbury District Health Board in 2019, Hansen describes how a team of people bugged a man’s “radio, jug, urn and fan heater”. The disturbing story ends with the line:

“Something must be done about the thrush and chlamydia boom.”

Hansen’s candidate photographs for Christchurch elections in 1979, left, 1986 and 1989.

Hansen says he pays for the ads by saving his pension over the three years between elections. The 77-year-old is now retired after working at the freezing works, Temuka Pottery, the Christchurch gasworks, a nail factory and many others places. His father worked on the railways and so his childhood was spent roving across New Zealand, before settling in Christchurch in 1961.

A story in The Press from 1966 describes how Hansen, then 20, was remanded to Sunnyside psychiatric hospital after a charge of assault. Hansen says it happened after a fight with his father.

“My father was a drunken, violent man. He came home at Christmas and he was drunk. His attitude was he had parental control over me and could punch me. I punched back and he put a charge on me and they sent me to Sunnyside. I used to intervene between him and Mum and he came to resent me. I am pleased he is dead now.”

Has he stayed at a psychiatric hospital since then? He folds his arms, looks away and says: “Not really, no.”

As we talk on his front lawn a tabby cat wanders over to greet Hansen. “This is Chloe from over the road.” They clearly like each other. She rubs around his legs as we talk about happier times.

Tubby Hansen greets the neighbour’s cat, Chloe (Photo: Alden Williams/Stuff)

He talks with a wry smile about the fun of the election trail. He enjoys the sense of connection at public election meetings. “You have a bit of fun. People laugh.”

How does he fancy his chances in his 18th Christchurch mayoral race this year? “I think Phil Mauger will win this one because he started his advertising programme early.” He smiles and adds: “But only if I don’t get in as mayor.”

Does he really think he could win?

“Robert the Bruce said: ‘Try, try and try again’.”

Keep going!