Two new Mayors by October?

by Peter Newport - Feb 03, 2022


This year’s local elections are going to be a big deal, hopefully for all of the right reasons.

The wrong reasons will be mudslinging, apathy and a lack of strong viable candidates.

The right reasons will definitely be to do with local voters having a choice of candidates with different views and some strong, balanced life experience that makes them capable of representing us.

And that’s the key thing about mayors. Even though their power is actually quite limited they are still the person that Central Government trusts to convey the mood of the district and the media are always quick to jump on the phone for a quick take on what the mayor feels about x, y, or z issue.

The entire reputation of a district can be coloured, even dictated, by what the mayor does, or does not, do.

Of course, we can’t really argue with what the mayor does after being elected. Once the roadside hoardings have been taken down, the postal leaflets delivered, the town hall chairs stacked, and the election debates become a mere echo from the past – that’s it. We are stuck, or blessed, with our new mayor.

So, here’s the Crux wish list, and our undertakings, for the 2022 local body elections in Cromwell, Wānaka and Queenstown.

  • Let’s have a good, clean fight – but most importantly let’s have a genuine battle between opposing views.
  • Let’s have strong candidates – we’ll given them equal media space and video minutes.
  • Let’s agree to avoid the mudslinging and stick to policies. It is the job of local media to hold power to account after an election – but during a campaign we want to hear what each candidate has to say.
  • Let’s avoid the stupid roadside posters and chocolate box leaflets. These old-fashioned campaign devices tell us little or nothing about the candidate and are we really going to select a new mayor based on what their face looks like or how good their graphic designers are?
  • Let’s start to support potential candidates by giving them our encouragement. It’s a bit of a scary thing standing for public office, but it’s a lot better than having a mayor who does not represent the views of the majority of the local population.
  • Share the load – let’s encourage the successful mayors, whoever they are, to share the load between all of the elected councillors and avoid the “cult of personality” – we are grown-ups and should not be bombarded with images of the Mayor playing the guitar, riding a skateboard, cutting ribbons or wearing a tuxedo at flash parties.
  • Let’s be honest. However other organisations are run, councils are democratic organisations, and we expect mayors to deliver a higher-than-average level of social awareness and not become “a benevolent dictator” with the “benevolent” aspect being something mayors often confer on themselves. We might all want “businesslike” but let’s leave the dictatorship, secret workshops, public excluded meetings, and cosy backroom deals to other countries where democracy is not taken so seriously.
  • Council managers. These public servants are employed by the ratepayers and our mayor and councillors are their direct bosses. But elected people come and go while the senior managers stay. We need our mayor and councillors to be tough but fair employers. Bad habits, self-fulfilling performance metrics, out of control spin/PR, power bubbles and self-interest all creep in over the years with council senior managers. After all get paid very well (by us) and run a monopoly where there is no real external regulation.

So – please let’s be brave and see some real community members stand for office – with the full support of the people who live here. The mayoralty should never be reserved for people who have the money, connections, or spare time to dabble in local politics - or even entertain the concept of self-interest.

The mayoralty should be for genuine, ordinary people who we all can trust to do their very best for all of us. It really is that simple.

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