Sunday, 10 October 2010

thoughts on hamilton election results

it's been a nice weekend, after some very good election results around the country. i thought i'd put up some random thoughts specifically about the results in hamilton (cos i think everyone has heard enough about auckland, wellington & christchurch!).

that we have a new mayor is actually quite surprising, in that over a month ago, the polls showed there was absolutely no competition. i think bob simcock's campaign suffered from two things: a huge sense of complacency & considerably negative coverage in the waikato times. there also is the fact that many people are unhappy about the huge surge in council debt, the financial drain and lack of promised economic benefits from the v8s, the secrecy around mr simcock's funders (and the very related issue of montana catering getting some prime city council contracts, including an exclusive contract for the v8s).

so there was a strong sense of dissatisfaction there, but nowhere to focus it. julie hardaker is certainly not a well-known figure in the city, she didn't have any kind of profile prior to this campaign, nor has she had any involvement in politics. but the coverage she got during the campaign was pretty positive, and i guess that gave voters a place to park their discontent.

things i'm sad about: that the very excellent mark servian didn't get through, and the lack of ethnic representation. no pacific islanders, no asians, and the only person who could be considered maori is the ex-netballer margaret forsyth. it's not that people didn't stand, and it's not that they didn't have a profile. for example matiu dickson, another excellent candidate, is not only known for having been the chair of one of our most successful public high schools but also made the local news for publicly challenging that nasty garry mallett at a political meeting a few years ago. he's an incredibly capable person, but it wasn't enough.

which is a big problem, particularly in hamilton. it's almost impossible to unseat established sitting councillors. people tend to vote only for names they know or who have a previous media profile. which means that the city misses out on some excellent people. what's the alternative? taking some time to find out about candidates by either attending meetings, researching them online or picking up the phone and giving them a call. i think we do have a responsibility to take the time to do this.

it's name-recognition that got the owner of the now-defunct kiwi airlines, ewan wilson, through again. even though the last time he was a councillor, he had the poorest attendance record & in my opinion did not provide adequate representation for the city. i just can't believe the westies (of hamilton) voted him back in.

the good news: gary mallet lost. i can't tell you how happy it makes me that the ACT party president (or ex-president? i can't be bothered keeping up) is not representing our city in any way. he lost the WEL energy trust elections last year and yesterday he was the highest polling loser, which is not good, but margaret forsyth kept him out, which is brilliant.

also good is that the rates control team ticket (centre right) was unsuccessful in the city. despite the fact that they had the backing of greypower (who claim to be politically neutral) & federated farmers, they stood 11 candidates and have 2 seats. they were much more successful in the environment waikato elections, which i suspect is not going to be too good for the environment. but i feel sorry for many of those candidates, who would have had to put money into what looked like a pretty expensive joint campaign but really got no benefit out of it. maybe they did better than they otherwise would have, it's hard to tell.

it's great to see that martin gallagher was the highest polling councillor. perhaps a sign that the west now regrets not putting him back into parliament. but most interesting, and just to prove my theory about well-known names wrong, was the fact that lisa lewis was the lowest polling candidate from the east. despite the fact that she had the most free publicity from the times compared to any other candidate. still, it goes to show that a failure to grasp the political issues & to answer questions and resorting to gimmicks like pulling out a tequila bottle at a mayoral candidates meeting mean that you won't be getting the votes.

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