Local Government Magazine
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For God’s sake have an idea


Elections are won by hard work and the power of positive thinking.

Victor Hugo wisely said, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.” I used this quote extensively while campaigning in west Auckland and I have mentored many politicians on making a visible, tangible idea their own.

In local government, your name is only as good as what you stand for. I’m surprised how many candidates think cheap recognition will get them elected. A dull campaign is a losing one.

So, base your campaign around an idea that people can buy into. Then stand for that issue. Don’t confuse your voters with too many ideas: whether it be a local water treatment plant, sewage or another public swimming pool.

Be careful not to over-promise and under-deliver: that’s if you intend to stick around a while longer. If that’s the case, you may need to look in the mirror and ask yourself whether you have stayed at the party a little too long.

If the answer is yes, but you still want to have one more go, be honest and say you would like to remain for one last term to finish a certain project. It’s saleable if you’ve done a good job and that’s over to you.

In the 2019 elections there will be some epic battles to the death in the local body bear pits around the country.

In Auckland, the biggest scrap will be between wild westie John Tamihere, John Banks and the conservative safe pair of hands Phil Goff. Hamilton and Tauranga are up for some minor scraps but the focus will be on the heavy hitters.

I would like to see more women in local government. There have been some outstanding women leaders such as Cath Tizard, Kerry Prendergast and Sukhi Turner, and fine councillors in Auckland such as Penny Hulse.

But there have not been enough of them and certainly not enough Maori and Polynesian representation.


Don’t waste your precious time in local government on the minutiae of trivia.


I would like to see more diversity, more council leadership: not division and pettiness. If you have the chance to lead don’t waste your precious time in local government on the minutiae of trivia. Set your goal and work towards it from the day you get elected.

The great mayor of Auckland, Robbie (Sir Dove-Myer Robinson), once told me that “in politics it’s wrong to be right too soon”.

Robbie was certainly right about light rail, but the voters decided it was a crazy and overly-expensive idea. It was simply 30 years too soon and Robbie paid the price.

Now, it will cost Auckland billions for what Robbie’s campaign estimated to cost $400,000 and that’s history. My message is – don’t be history.

If your grand idea looks like it might be on a slippery slope quickly find yourself another one. But you only get two chances at the bullseye.

Use your idea in a short succinct by-line. Use it on hoardings, pamphlets and, if you are rich enough, on radio. An idea that belongs to a candidate is powerful.

My idea of creating an eco-city – a green, clean community – was timely and sexy. Even better, it was young. Your idea shouldn’t be angry. No one got elected through anger, apart from Trump and look where that has got us.

Your campaign should really be about leadership. Tell your community about your leadership skills. Say it often.

Elections are won by hard work, sheer determination and the power of positive thinking. It’s no game for sluggish, lazy thinking. You need to be focused for at least six weeks while the campaign leads to election day.

You will need to collect votes from rest homes (aren’t they the only people who vote these days?), flats, apartments and rural areas. People need to see you asking them to vote or they will simply forget you; their voting papers lost down the back of the fridge or in the car.

Wake up every day thinking about how you are going to win. Get out there and do it.  

This article was first published in the August 2019 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.


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