Local Government Magazine
Opinion

Bugger! Election year again

election
SIR BOB HARVEY / HOW TO WIN THE NEXT ELECTION

Why must we have postal voting in a digital age?

They come around quickly don’t they? No sooner have you got your feet under the council table, a couple of cosy chairmanships, people start to like you, even stop you in the street telling you what a great job you are doing and suddenly it’s election year again.

I used to dread elections. It’s a challenging and torturous time. Sleepless nights, bank balance depletion, those sad old hoardings with the dated photographs and the job of inspiring friends, colleagues and long-suffering family members to go around your territory in all kinds of weather with a staple gun, a sledgehammer and a trailer full of timber hoardings.

No sooner have you put them up than some clown has defaced them with a moustache, glasses and the odd penis.

It’s only funny if it isn’t your sign but this is called campaigning and it certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted.

Campaigning for local government needs more support than it gets and I’ve always felt that our government politicians hold local endeavours with contempt as junior players in a chess game that can be stopped at any part of the play.

John Tamihere probably isn’t far off the mark when he calls local Auckland politicians “puppets” of the government. They don’t deserve the title but that’s certainly how it appears when central government puts the jack boots on for a little show of strength and power.

It’s gut wrenching to be told by central government who is the final boss and arbitrator.

Campaigning isn’t for the faint-hearted.

So where is the help when it’s needed?

Why does central government hold dearly to a voting system by polling, making us the poor cousins in an antiquated and rapidly-failing postal system?

It’s hard these days to even find a post box. I’ve been searching for one for a week myself so I can post a letter.

I think I might be one of the last New Zealanders to actually write a letter of condolence.

Today, email is king and the postal service is in tatters. Thank you, central government and the postal service, for taking away all the rural letterboxes and post offices in every little community in our country.

Central government has a lot to answer for. It gets 79 percent participation in a national election while local government, which gets things done faster and with more passion, gets a mere 42 percent of the eligible vote.

It’s not like we haven’t tried to change the system, but the sheer technicality is getting more of an uphill struggle with the huge number of candidates in a place like Auckland standing for wards, trust boards and council.

There is a wide array of parties, political aspirations (and to be honest they range from brilliant to simply dreadful) all wanting to make a difference with many lacking a simple understanding of how complex local government can be.

I was pleased to see the president of Local Government New Zealand, Dave Cull, making excellent comments about the woeful support we have had and how the postal system has simply failed to deliver democracy at community level.

Cull points out that councils which have seriously sought to run an online voting trial in Auckland, Hamilton, Gisborne, Palmerston North and Tauranga have been expected to run the trials at the ratepayer’s expense. Sadly, it has proved too expensive.

Local government continues to soldier on, and it must. This is a digital age. Email, Google and Amazon are king. Our kids are fast becoming addicted to digital communications and many people consider postal voting for local democracy just too arduous.

Considering we are now completing our census online with ease we need to be able to do the same with voting. I would think it’s a stronger issue than getting elected.

There is a gap here that’s rapidly failing this country. Maybe there are a few politicians who would like it that way but not me. 

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