Yes, voting might encourage them – but it can also be used to cull politicians who disappoint us

A book compiled by veteran journalist David Barber (with cartoons by Bob Brockie) is titled “Don’t vote : it only encourages them!” It was published in 2004, which means New Zealanders have had some 15 years to consider and act on the advice.

Whether this explains voting behaviour at this year’s local body elections is a moot point.

Stuff’s Andrea Vance has other explanations for the turnout at the elections.  She reckons a combination of mediocrity, irrelevance and lack of accountability is what discouraged voters.

She cited some local scandals:

During the campaign alone we’ve seen an audit of the Porirua mayor’s spending withheld by the council with a special brand of chutzpah and fecklessness unique to New Zealand’s local body representatives, Mike Tana says the report on his fuel bills might affect his vote turnout.

In Christchurch, a cloud of inappropriate behaviour claims hangs over city councillor Deon Swiggs.  

On the Kāpiti Coast, David Scott sought re-election despite being stood down from the district council when he was convicted of indecent assault on a colleague.

Voters are disgusted with secret deals, pet projects, inadequate transport links, aging infrastructure, high rates bills and councils floundering to grapple with population pressures, environmental problems and climate change. 

It’s no wonder turnout has been on the slide since the 1980s.

This explanation seems counter-instinctive.

A Point of Order team member, resident in Porirua, determined to cast his vote to rid the city of councillors who were profligate with public money and to ensure Mayor Tana’s defeat rather than necessarily to ensure any alternative candidate’s victory.

Tana’s disinclination or inability to explain questionable council decisions was one consideration.

Another was his bizarre refusal to release a report which – he said – rebutted suggestions he had misspent public money:

Porirua Mayor Mike Tana is refusing to release an auditor’s report into his fuel spending, but insists its findings exonerate him.

Porirua Council CE Wendy Walker said she intended to release the report on Thursday but the mayor had asked her not to, “because of privacy concerns”. The council took legal advice before complying with Tana’s request.


Tana said he didn’t want the report released because it might affect his campaign, but said it cleared him.

“All it will do is give people ammunition to find a way to use whatever they’ve got to make this not about the issue but any other issue they want to.

“I will call an extraordinary meeting of council and talk to each councillor about the findings of the report ….out of that meeting it may be agreed it will be released.”

We look forward to learning of the outcome of this meeting.

We also look forward (fingers crossed) to Porirua being led by a new mayor who steers clear of profligacy and better handles inquiries by the media about council decisions that are costing ratepayers a bundle.

But above all, we note that casting a vote  was eagerly seized on by at least one resident to express disapproval of Tana’s leadership.

Smile, dear ratepayer – Porirua’s council is hoping to shift your focus away from it (and its spending?) on to the city

porirua logo
The logo. Photo credit: Porirua City Council

Picasso – perhaps – was the painter of Porirua’s logo (pictured here … )

Or maybe not.  The logo was created as recently as 2017,  part of a $98,876 brand makeover at Porirua City Council which Taxpayers’ Union spokesman Louis Houlbrooke has had the the impertinence of questioning.

In a press release from him yesterday, he said:

“The official new avatar for the Council, which you would expect to be emblemic of the rebrand’s quality, is a limp and childlike smiley face. The design was apparently chosen because it ‘connects with the city’s youthful population’. When Porirua ratepayers gaze long enough into the face, the Council’s five percent annual rate hikes gaze back.” Continue reading “Smile, dear ratepayer – Porirua’s council is hoping to shift your focus away from it (and its spending?) on to the city”

All in the name of art – ratepayer-funded travel to Canada was part of an indigenous exchange

True leadership is leading by example, taking the time to listen to others, and holding yourself accountable to those you serve and getting on with the mahi you have been elected to do.

So said Porirua mayor Mike Tana in a recent article he wrote for the Dominion-Post to rebut criticisms by local real estate agent Euon Murrell, a former councillor who was defeated by Tana at the 2016 local government elections.

Just what he meant by “getting on with the mahi” probably required many readers to wonder what he was banging on about. The translations we found say “mahi” variously means “work”, “practice”, “make”, “function”, “vocation”, “task”, “routine”, “process”, “job”, “activity” or “action” – take your pick.

More obviously, this is the city leader who – when asked about a council investment of $10 million or so to buy some properties to deal with a leaky homes problem – is reported to have said he didn’t know details of the deal or the amount paid as it was an “operational matter” conducted by council staff.

Although he knew of the plan to buy the properties, he was unaware the purchases had been made and couldn’t comment, he said. Continue reading “All in the name of art – ratepayer-funded travel to Canada was part of an indigenous exchange”

Porirua: a city where the council dabbles in property and cares for its staff while struggling to balance its books

Boris Johnson, aspiring to be Britain’s next Prime Minister, has the gift of the gab until he is grilled about his private life. Then he maintains a stubborn silence, insisting this should be off limits to public scrutiny.

In Porirua, citizens are served by a Mayor who is apt to be circumspect about council dealings that are very much a matter of public interest – especially to ratepayers.

Or (to be fair) maybe he has said a great deal, but has not been fully reported.

A week or so ago Stuff disclosed that beachfront land in Titahi Bay – sold to Porirua City Council to ensure it could be used by the public – was the subject of designs which include detailed options for developing apartments.

These were shown to councillors in a closed-door session, Stuff reported. Continue reading “Porirua: a city where the council dabbles in property and cares for its staff while struggling to balance its books”

Porirua’s Mayor Tana should take a lesson from Sir Tim about the electoral importance of “heart”

Down south, Invercargill  mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt this month demonstrated the political nous that explains why is the country’s longest-serving mayor.

He exercised his casting vote to side with the employers of disabled workers, contrary to an advisory group’s recommendation that another preferred tenderer be hired for a recycling contract.

Southland disAbility Enterprises has held the contract for the past eight years but it is due to finish at the end of this month.

According to the Otago Daily Times, Cr Toni Biddle asked for the tender debate to be made in public, while excluding financial and commercial information, which would be received in committee before the debate.

That vote was split 5-5, requiring Sir Tim to use his casting vote.

”I think you should vote with your heart,” he said, voting in favour of the motion.

After concern was raised about the potential consequences of releasing commercially sensitive information to the public, another motion was passed that only the final vote would be made public.

That vote, which was made in public after two and a-half hours of public-excluded debate, again came down to a split decision.

Sir Tim said, as chairman, he could vote twice in such circumstances, and voted against the recommendation for a preferred tenderer, put forward to the council by the Waste Advisory Group. Continue reading “Porirua’s Mayor Tana should take a lesson from Sir Tim about the electoral importance of “heart””