The campaigning is over, the votes are cast, the computers have done their number crunching on the complicated system that is STV, and Marlborough has a new council. For all the excellent media coverage along with candidates' own electioneering, only around 54% of voters actually had a say.
During the campaign, there was much discussion about the need for younger councillors, and time for a change. The results clearly show that both have been achieved. In the Blenheim ward, only two of six councillors seeking re-election have achieved their aim, but new faces Jamie Arbuckle, Terry Sloan, Jessica Bagge, and one face from the past back at the table, David Dew, join only two returning councillors Jenny Andrews and Graeme Taylor. The top three candidates were less than ten votes apart making for a very close result. Wairau-Awatere Ward has one new face in Geoff Evans, and the new Marlborough Sounds Ward, two new faces in David Oddie and Trevor Hook, with one sitting councillor from the two wards that combined to make the new ward. Wairau/Awatere went against the trend, with only one new face in Geoff Evans, after Andrew Barker did not seek re-election.
The new council is going to have its work cut out. A recession, widespread discontent at rates rises, expenditure on perceived 'luxury' items, and increased responsibility imposed on local bodies by central government will not make the role of councillor an easy one. New councillors, if they are not already familiar, will have to come to terms with the Resource Management Act, Annual Plan, Long Term Council Community Plan (LTCCP) along with a number of technical reports covering everything from hydrology to roading. Anyone who thinks they're in for a couple of days of meetings a week is going to find themselves very much surprised, and while there are councillors who scrape by on the minimum of work, it is not fair to ratepayers if they don't do their homework.
An encouraging sign is two lawyers elected to council, one with previous council experience. David Dew has previously been involved in the former Marlborough County Council, and while John Leggett has no previous council experience, hopefully between them, they should have a good understanding of relevant legislation that has a bearing on council operations and responsibilities. Although the two have very different personal styles, it is to be hoped that they will be strong and capable representatives.
Of the remaining new councillors, most are unknown quantities when it comes to the disciplines required to serve effectively on council. It is easy to make a lot of noise on the campaign that gains votes, but it is another thing to settle down to studying reports, seeking further information when required and making informed decisions that serve the long term good of the community.
Those people who voted have already shown that they will be ruthless towards any councillors they perceive as not measuring up. New councillors now have three years to prove that they are worthy of the roles that they have campaigned for. Neither the public nor the media will show any mercy for those who don't provide any substance.