It’s local body election time again, always good for a laugh, or despair, depending on one’s mood. We can weep at the sheer ineptitude of 75% of candidates, and existing mayors and councillors, most doing it to obtain an income they’re incapable of otherwise earning. As a result the bigger cities, thank God, are largely run by their CEOs while the mayors posture.
I’ve always had the impression, (possibly wrong) that candidates in smaller regions have superior character to those in the main cities. In such smaller locales there’s a stronger sense of community and thus of civic duty by competent folk.
Additionally, local body elections provide cranks an opportunity for attention, even if merely having their name published in a candidates list.
Classic is John Minto, otherwise known as the “Screaming Skull”, who fled to Christchurch 4 years ago and surprise, surprise, is standing for mayor under a banner with those cringing yesteryear anachronisms, “progressive”, “network” and “collective”.
Still pining for the glory days of 1981, every three years the Skull recaptures a brief place in the sun provided by elections, followed by a well‑deserved thrashing, then obscurity until the next time.
To its credit the Herald has endeavoured to generate interest in Auckland’s mayoralty race, providing tons of coverage on incumbent Phil Goff and his principal challenger John Tamihere (JT). They’ve inaccurately portrayed this as a left‑right contest whereas both are, and always have been, centralists, despite their Labour backgrounds.
John did himself no favours dragging in former mayor Christine Fletcher, currently missing in action, as his deputy. Despite her size she was seen as a monumental lightweight and managed a single term before being dumped.
That said, JT has livened the contest with an often outlandish and never ending flow of policies, some dumb, some not. He’s not helped his case by the bad judgement of dressing in a T shirt and jacket.
Given the standard poor turn‑out in local government elections I sense Phil will get up again as a safe pair of hands, but who knows?
Wellington’s mayor Justin Lester is widely seen as soaking wet. Reputedly staff wear galoshes and raincoats when in his presence and are now demanding life-jackets. It’s no surprise that the city’s CEO, allegedly fed up with him, has thrown his hands up in despair and tossed it in. Running a small café is not a credential for being the capital’s mayor. His challenger, (one of several), life‑long Councillor Andy Foster has a quiet public image and is viewed as overly cautious, but thanks to the entry of Peter Jackson backing him, is now seen as a chance.
Jackson’s financial help indicates the depth of his feelings considering he evidently can’t afford to buy other than op‑shop clothing or go to a barber. His new found poverty is further reflected by the sale of his jet which used to share a hangar with mine and now, it would seem, from recent publicity, he’s having to get about in replica 1940 era war planes. So given this latter day penury, his financial backing of Andy takes on special significance. A passionate Wellingtonian, who generally, keeps his head down, the film‑maker is upset over a controversial proposed residential development in a grotty small bay. Allegations of corruption swirl, compounded by the standard Maori dispute, the land vendor in part being a local Iwi.
Still, given Jackson commands public respect this contest is wide open.
This is not the first time Lester and Jackson have crossed swords. Plans to build a film museum collapsed after a row between them over it, for which as one of the city’s largest ratepayers, I was delighted to see it scrubbed.
What on earth would such a museum contain? Old movie posters, a famous actor’s underwear, Jackson’s toothbrush and missing shoes or what?
For some years the current mayor’s wife Liz, superbly filled a management role in my Wellington office by running a reign of terror with tradesmen, until leaving to have a baby. We’d have her back in a flash, notwithstanding my constant arguments with her on colour decor, for which she was always wrong.
As for her pregnancy, as always I was suspected as the father as people had doubts about Lester on this score. I’m used to that and batted it off, my own suspicions falling on our Wellington‑based director Sam Cooper who has form on this front, but that’s supposition. Another prime suspect at the time was prominent Lower Hutt lawyer David Butler, but who knows?
That said, through Liz I’m privy to the antagonistic background between the mayor and the film‑maker, which dates back over a decade.
At the time Lester was President of the Wellington Maypole Dancing Association and is reputedly a highly competent and passionate exponent. Apparently, he’s mastered fairyish flouncing moves which bring tears to the eyes of maypole dancing traditionalists when he’s in full flight.
As is well-known Jackson also fancies himself on this front, practising with his wife and key staff several hours daily, so he duly joined the Association.
Lester took offence at his shaggy appearance, correctly asserting that maypole dancers traditionally maintain a neat and tidy appearance, consequently he banned Jackson from the capital’s team for the Nationals.
As a result Jackson tried to create a rival Wellington association but the national body refused to recognise it. Therein lay the seeds of their bitter rivalry.
Another poll to watch is Invercargill. Revelations by the Taxpayers Union of some outrageous expenditures by mayor Tim Shadbolt should see him get the chop. For example, spending over $3,000 of ratepayers money on plastic wristbands bearing a portrait of himself and the message, “I met the Mayor” is unbelievably disgraceful.
I say “should” given that for the past five elections Tim has bolted in by large margins, plus he has two viable opponents, respectively current and former deputy mayors who could split any anti‑Shadbolt vote.
Local government elections are akin to the para‑Olympics, that is 3rd rate from an athletic or political perspective but still holding human interest, much like watching fat ladies sprint, albeit on reflection, a great deal less interesting.
It’s a truly amazing co-incidence but I’ve since learnt that John Minto is also a keen maypole dancer. Extraordinary!