council seatsThis year’s local council elections timetable from the government website —

9 July 2019
Nominations open for candidates. Nominations have to be sent to the electoral officer for the council, district health board or licensing trust. Rolls open for inspection at council offices and other sites locally.
16 August
Nominations close at 12 noon. Rolls close. After this date, anyone who is entitled to vote and who is not enrolled as an elector, or whose details are incorrectly recorded on the roll, will have to cast a ‘special vote’.
21 August
Election date and candidates’ names publicised by electoral officers.
20-25 September
Voting documents delivered to households. Electors can post the documents back to electoral officers as soon as they have voted.
12 October
Polling day — The voting documents must be at the council before voting closes at 12 noon. Preliminary results (i.e. once all ‘ordinary’ votes are counted) will be available as soon as possible afterwards.
17-23 October (or as soon as practicable)
Official results (including all valid ordinary and special votes) declared.

How many existing Kapiti councilors intend to seek re-election isn’t yet known, although Mayor Guru, as well as Michael Scott and Jackie Elliott have publicly said they are.

In 2016, columnist Elizabeth Hughes wrote a piece in the Local Government Magazine on the subject of running for a council seat in which she asked those contemplating it:-

  • What would you be standing for? (As opposed to standing against.)
  • Who are you standing for? (While you probably already know a group of people who would love for you to represent them, will you also be able to represent people whose views are different?)
  • What specifically do you want to achieve for the city / district / region? (Your vision.)
  • What are your bottom lines / non-negotiables? (Not just the things that make your blood boil, but also the things that might limit your ability to maintain an open mind.)

If successful, you are going to be viewed by the council’s top bureaucrats, if not as an irritation, then at least as someone they’ve no choice but to tolerate in their attempts to have you rubber stamp what they want.

There should in fact be uneasy tension; that doesn’t mean animosity, but a relationship that is civil but frosty: making friends with staff members is a mistake.

Although they often consider themselves as infallible, rightful rulers of the District, the senior bureaucrats are public servants with very narrow vision, and in Kapiti’s case, people who only care about themselves and their interests, not about the Ratepayers.

As well as regular council meetings, there are also committee meetings and briefings. You will get about 500 pages a week to read on council affairs, of which about a quarter are on orange paper meaning “this is secret — you are not to tell anyone about it.” (And if you do they’ll set Simpson Grierson on you).

It’s likely that 20 hours a week or more will be involved — how is your business/homelife going to cope with that?

The bureaucrats will browbeat you with their knowledge of the 21 statutes which control local government delivery, services and activities.  Of the 21, the two most important are the Local Government Act and the Resource Management Act —  the latter is as turgid as legislation gets, but should still be read.

Elizabeth Hughes recommended meeting with at least two sitting elected councillors – ones you wouldn’t normally talk to – and asking them: “What have you achieved since you were elected?”  That’s actually a good question that should be also be asked of councilors at candidate meetings.

She painted this picture of life as a councilor:-

You’re in a meeting around the table with 14 people who are nothing like you.

A half-hour Powerpoint presentation has been delivered about installing new public toilets at the park. You’ll have already received and read a report about 20 pages long. The report and presentation cover the following context: global tourism trends, regional economic development, the Public Facilities Strategy, sustainability, investment comparisons, land ownership, debt management, future water supply, size of sewage pipes, waste management, depreciation, parking, health and safety installations, colour schemes, signage and (conflicting) views from the community.

You have formed your view. A debate ensues giving everyone five minutes (that’s five times 14) to speak.

An alternative perspective on ‘availability of parking’ is introduced (one of your colleagues was elected because of parking issues). You have your own view on this, and so will everyone else (none are informed views – just views) and another five minutes each is allocated.

A vote is eventually taken on the parking availability issue (probably asking for more information) and you get back to debating the public toilet project.

A decision (vote) may now need to be 
delayed awaiting the additional information.

Then, a few weeks later, you’ll have another report and Powerpoint presentation with some new information added and then debate the public toilets again. You’ll need to remember what you said in all previous debates so you don’t contradict yourself. (There’ll be video or audio footage in case you forget.)

This can go on for several months until the majority are happy one way or the other.

Elizabeth Hughes also wrote about desirable personal qualities and some of her self-evaluation questions were :

  • What is your usual response when faced with stupidity, bullying, arrogance and / or extreme earnestness?
  • Do you think it more important to be ‘likeable’ or ‘effective’ as a community leader?
  • Are you someone who values ‘evidence-based’ decision-making or ‘weight of public opinion’ decision-making?
  • Where do you think you sit on a ‘tedium to excitement’ continuum?
  • How will you react on learning that something you expected to do is “just not possible” and, on the face of it, looks like “bureaucracy gone mad”? (Honest answers please.)