Well playmates, as the polls close on this curious by election, what have we LEARNED?
After all, since the whole ‘Supercity’ nonsense was first mooted, we normally reticent Waihekeans have had to get used to some changes in the way things are
done, politically speaking.
So let’s look at some of the issues that have cropped up over the last few weeks and see if we can make some sort of sense of it all.
Sent your ballots off yet?
Chances are, if you are reading this, then the answer is yes. But for every one that is there will be a dozen who won’t. Those of us who love local politics and try to soak up as much as we can on the subject are few and far between. ‘We few, we happy few’ and all that.
If I had to take a guess at turnout this time around I’d say we’ll get maybe fifty percent or thereabouts. Not that impressive, but given the limited coverage and the lack of a public meeting or two, I suppose it’s not that surprising.
Plus, let’s face it, the weather has been amazing and when there are fish to be caught and barbecues to be lit and beers to be drunk then who’s taking notice of a few dull candidates eh? Leave ‘em to it. I’m sure they’ll sort it all out between themselves and let us know when they’re done.
All that boiling rage we saw eighteen months ago over the local board shake out seems to have been kept in reserve until the next full election and even Paul Walden, who carries more of the expectations of the seriously disgruntled on his shoulders than most has been pretty quiet on the subject.
Ah well. Keep it simmering I say. There is a heavy reckoning to be made a year and a half from now and I really hope that those of you who were incandescently livid back then can manage to remember why.
If you can’t then don’t worry, I’ll be right here to remind you.
I’m going to stick my neck out here and predict that Paul Walden will win the seat with a comfortable margin.
But what of the others? Without a public meeting to help us get a good close up look at them it’s been a tricky business sorting out who stands for what. We are left with only the revealing radio interviews to guide us plus whatever bland mush the local papers can be bothered serving up. As far as the rest of the field are concerned, we have the old familiar faces still trying to look like they belong, plus a few new contenders.
Of these the only one who stands out is Sue McCann. Personally, I’d like to see her get second place, or at least enough of a vote to show her it might be worth persisting with her political ambitions beyond this by election.
Here of course is where things get interesting. Campaigning for a seat on the board in the old days was a charmingly bumbling business. You stood for election, put up a few billboards, handed out a few leaflets and tried not to make an arse of yourself at whatever public meetings were organised by interested citizens. Public disagreements were few and far between and all candidates stood not only as independent from the left/right factions in the city but from any kind of perceivable power bloc within the community itself. All we usually had to guide us were vague indicators such as whether the person commuted, ran a business, wrote to the Gulf News excessively or was actually known to be barking mad.
Pretty much all campaigns boiled down to; “I’m a nice person. Some of you know me. I have lived on Waiheke for…..years. I’m passionate about this community. Have a leaflet that says all the stuff I just said. Er….That’s it.”
Which was pleasant but somewhat dull.
Even the performance on the hustings of the seventeen contenders for the first new Local Board seats followed this basic trend which made it all the more surprising to see a sudden shift to factional politics emerge once the result was announced. Well, obviously I don’t need to rehash what happened then.
So it was refreshing to see the appearance of a genuinely professional looking set of promotional material appear for Paul Walden. The glossy newspaper was certainly a neat touch, though maybe not as clever in actual content as its look suggested. But, pedestrian though the bulk filler may have been, it was new and unexpected and certainly made an impression.
Likewise the highly professional billboards, though one wag suggested that it appeared that the candidate was looking for members to join his church.
But overall, Waiheke has been treated to a new look in local campaigning. Is this a good thing? Well, on the one hand it might make for amusing times ahead if others follow the same lead and vie with each other to produce ever more flashy and entertaining material. But what of the potential board member who may be brilliant, talented and worth electing but who is duller than a vegan’s lunch box and has no mates with a sense of humour either? How will we know their worth?
Of course at this point those who know the deeper weirdness of the last few weeks are waving and calling out. “Tell them about the ON-LINE STUFF!”
Yes, I was just getting to that. Watch.
The Social Media or ‘Facebook’ to give it its more accurate name, has been around for many, many years. Or so it sometimes seems. In fact, most of us had only just acquired an identity on this ubiquitous means of public driveling when the whole local board business erupted eighteen months ago. Yet now, most of us take it for granted and all the silly jokes, pictures and video clips of kittens behaving amusingly that we’d normally be annoying our friends with by email are now distributed in a far wider way by this new technology.
And so it has proved with the by election. Those of you who have managed so far to resist the ‘charms’ of Facebook will have missed out on the best part of the whole process.
Things started off on the Waiheke Community page a couple of weeks back when one candidate suddenly and without warning, let rip in the direction of another candidate. Others on the page either reacted in horror or egged him on. The whole debate grew so frisky that before too long some regulars were becoming distressed and calling for the whole lengthy debate to be shut down. After all, if you are trying to spend the day posting stuff about jam making, needlework or gardening tips you don’t want this sudden boisterous fracas going on!
At this point Hans Versluys took the initiative and opened up a new Waiheke People’s Parliament page where local politics junkies could congregate and keep the pot stirring.
And stir it they did. However, the downside to all this is that in a real public meeting you can see who is making the noise. Like the memorable time John Stansfield reintroduced the splendid word ‘Ninny’ into the local lexicon at the Ostend hall. But on facebook it is perfectly simple to appear in full disguise and take potshots at anyone. And so it proved.
(Incidentally, any information on the true nature or identity of ‘Maggie Hromada’ will get you the usual pint of ale.)
So just as we face new situations within the political structure, so we face them in the way the campaigns are both run and commented upon. Had facebook been around back when the final community board elections were taking place four and a half years ago then I for one might have had a way better platform from which to challenge the assertions of a certain (subsequently notorious) local representative and, had I been heeded, we might have been spared a LOT of vexation.
Still, ‘Oh tempora, oh mores!’ as some bloke once observed. We all loved the idea of a new millennium, now all we have to do is get used to it and see if it makes any kind of sense in the long run. This time next week all will be known on the by election at any rate even if everything else still confuses us.
I’ll get a chance to go over most of this one more time on the radio next Saturday so if any of you think of stuff I may have missed then by all means let me know.