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A (mostly) satirical look at Marlborough local body elections

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Last Modified: 25-8-2022 19:01

Marlborough District Council aka Blenheim's Beehive
Marlborough District Council aka Blenheim's Beehive
Some people are going to join the hive.
© Christopher Cookson  License this image

Way back in 2010, I must have been suffering some kind of middle aged crisis or something and decided to stand for council. It was an interesting experience, that cost me some money that I probably could have spent on more useful things, and I came second to last, so since then, instead of wasting money on trying to convince Marlburians to get me to represent them, I’ve spent it on photography equipment allowing me to provide a visual representation of Marlborough both online and in print. In fact I even achieved enough success that I got a vote of support from retiring mayor John Leggett, when he agreed to write a foreword to my book ‘Tales of the Taylor’ a couple of years ago.

That to me seems a far more rewarding exercise personally, than spending money trying to convince people to tick a box with my name beside it, when they’d probably prefer to be spending the time circling Lotto numbers so that they might be able to afford next week’s grocery bill.

Way back in 2010, social media was around, but Facebook only introduced groups in October of that year, so the ability to congregate in secret cabals to speculate on what brand of toilet paper would achieve world domination in case of a global viral pandemic was still pure fiction before the 2010 local body election, and most people had to sit at actual keyboards without predictive text rather than use smartphones to post their social media messages.

Given that various experiments indicate that AI seems to learn from the worst of human behaviour, it’s probably likely that modern smartphones helpfully suggest all kinds of inflammatory comments via predictive text, and the poor users probably think,

“Hey, I wasn’t actually going to be that mean, but since my phone suggested it, why not?”

Unfortunately, being any sort of public figure these days when keyboard warriors would happily launch nukes via social media if they had the access codes, is not the most pleasant of occupations, especially when you’re supposed to represent democracy.

The trouble is there are no end of ‘freedom fighters’ out there now thanks to the facilitation of social media groups, who believe in the Model T Ford version of freedom; you can have any kind of freedom you like so long as it’s their version.

Add to that, the responsibility to wade through copious piles of often highly technical reports on the details of such things as local sewage, for a ‘part time’ salary that is only part time if you’re a fast reader and have good comprehension, or alternatively are just plain lazy and don’t take your job seriously, and there’s plenty of reasons for not wanting to be in local government.

Ironically, since not getting elected back in 2010, I’ve spent rather a lot of time reading Marlborough District Council reports, as they full of interesting titbits of information, that I’ve found useful for the more serious content on this website, although they’re definitely not as entertaining as Netflix, although are free if you don’t count your rates bill.

You’ll have to front up to ratepayers who don’t want rates rises, and others who think you are a magical source of funds for their pet projects, often with these being the same people.

You’ll also have to deal with central government wanting to look good by either cutting taxes, or not raising them too much, while coming up with great new services that they want to provide, which they’ll shift onto local council’s plates, which of course result in rates rises, or when central government finally figures out that doesn’t actually work all that well, they’ll come up with something like ‘Three Waters’, where they decide to take away from local government something people have been accustomed to having to deal with locally.

Understandably, against this backdrop, there don’t appear to have been a huge number of candidates putting their names forward for council.

I live in the Blenheim Ward, and there are ten candidates for seven vacancies, so it’s not exactly going to be a Dancing with the Stars grand elimination. Basically voters get to pick three they don’t want and the rest all get in. I almost wish I had got someone to stick my name forward, as that would have given people a choice of four people to eliminate, and I could have tried to better my previous record and come last, but honestly, for the $200 fee, I could afford a trip to document another corner of Marlborough, which would be considerably more fun, and I wouldn’t risk being stuck with three years of council meetings if I didn’t come last.

I’m disappointed I don’t live in Marlborough Sounds Ward, as they’ve got nine candidates for three vacancies, which makes for a fair fight.

The Marlborough mayoralty looks a bit interesting, with retiring mayor John Leggett endorsing his deputy Nadine Taylor to succeed him, another candidate who doesn’t even live in Marlborough but must believe in his own divine omnipresence as he’s standing as mayor for several councils, one former Labour Kaikōura electorate candidate, and finally comedian Chris Lippiatt.

I’m not a betting person, but if I were, my odds would be on Nadine Taylor, as she has a high profile endorsement, experience, and Marlborough tends to strongly support National in electorate voting, so I’m not sure whether someone with strong Labour ties like Matt Flight is somewhat handicapped. Nadine seems competent, but will probably disappoint anyone looking for nail-biting political drama. Former Labour MPs or candidates seem to have a habit of popping up around the country as mayoral candidates. Think Phil Goff in Auckland, Lianne Dalziel in Christchurch. Matt could perhaps improve his chances though if he had a quiet word with his party’s leaders and told them that locals are very upset about government ignorance of local water infrastructure, insisting that the three waters are ice, water, and steam, when locals know that in fact the three waters are actually Te Hoire (Pelorus), Wairau, and Awatere, although they may be a little more aware of those three waters, or more like just water everywhere, after recent weather.

The dark horse in this race is Chris Lippiatt. I’m not sure of his motives, but never underestimate a comedian.

Currently a former funny man has captivated the world by bloodying the nose of a former KGB agent who presides over the world’s largest nation. There’s no suggestion that Australia is threatening to invade New Zealand, or even that Nelson intends to invade Marlborough, although Marlborough was historically part of Nelson, so we really need to be alert this year on the 180th anniversary of the colonisation of Nelson that some Nelsonian doesn’t decide to try to reconstitute the great Nelson Province that existed before Marlborough declared independence in 1859. Currently the weather has been doing a pretty good job of enforcing independence, whether people like it or not, but we can never be too careful.

I’m sure his association with film making would fully equip Chris to produce daily video updates inspiring Marlburians to resist, should Nelson mount a special operation to reclaim territory east of the Rai Saddle, weather permitting.

I’ve personally met Chris a couple of times; once at an informal group for locals interested in film making, and once at an Anglican church service. My association with the group was brief, as I’ve found that photographing and editing still images is time consuming enough in itself, without diving into video. As far as I’m aware, Chris’ regular involvement with the church is about the same as my participation in film making, so he’s probably not going to win the religious vote, although my observation of Marlburians on Sundays is that the majority religion seems to be belief in being able to work backyard miracles in return for making financial offerings at the temples of Mitre 10 and Bunnings, and filmmaking does require quite a bit of DIY, so he may have more religious appeal than expected.

Chris does seem to have something of a risque sense of humour. I remember his proposal for a short film plot involving time travel and some guy trying to save the world by communicating with his past or future self, but with everything falling apart due to his discovery of online porn. That leaves me wondering what Chris might really want to be doing with those mayoral chains. At least his surname isn't Grey.

Win or lose, I hope all candidates provide some decent entertainment over the election campaign, but if they get elected, whatever their background, realise the party is over, and they probably get to spend long days, and maybe nights at a round table making noble decisions about things like bridges and toilets with a multi-million dollar budget, for around 50,000 people who live in Marlborough. While it’s easy to joke about people and process, it’s actually a pretty daunting responsibility to fairly represent the welfare and aspirations of all the diverse people and interests in Marlborough, especially when we’ve probably all got different opinions on pretty much everything the council has to decide.

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Cookson, C. (2022). A (mostly) satirical look at Marlborough local body elections. Retrieved May, 29, 2024, from https://www.marlboroughonline.co.nz/marlborough/information/commentary/a-mostly-satirical-look-at-marlborough-local-body-elections/

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