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.