Deborah Hill Cone: Election suffering lack of gravitas

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Blockbuster issues sorely missing as candidates morph into anonymous blob.

Super City candidates are required to carry more than just passion to the role of running Auckland city. Photo / Richard Robinson
Super City candidates are required to carry more than just passion to the role of running Auckland city. Photo / Richard Robinson

Listen up, people, we are about to elect someone to the second-most-powerful job in the country and we should be taking it more seriously. Last week, I wrote about how I didn't think the National Party hierarchy in Wellington seemed to have given it high priority. I'm not sure why.

Surely the nutbar quotient isn't the reason for the lack of gravitas. A $200 fee is the only impediment to get on the ballot and, ahem, trying to be nice here, it shows.

"Formal education played a very small role in my life. I left school at 14 once I discovered marijuana ...", "My term as mayor will offer freshness ..." "I believe everyone, especially Christians, are asked to ... place the lives of unborn children above Waterfront Idols and Rates."

"Annalucia Vermunt, Communist League, 42, meat worker ...". "To be honest the salary of a quarter of a million dollars appeals." "I am sole Director of my Company, Kiwi Hanga Ontrepeners [sic] Limited ..." Thanks to a reader of the Cactus Kate blog for those insights from their candidate booklet.

It would be an affront to democratic principles if one suggested that only "serious" and "credible" candidates could stand or if there was some kind of monetary hurdle to putting your name forward.

But the free-for-all approach contributes to an amorphous blob of election which makes it hard for voters to focus on any specific issue.

Should you choose Vivienne, who opposes traffic light installations, or Grant, who opposes shoebox apartments, or Ann, who is for ambitious projects, or Joel, who is for leakproof sewers? The candidates in my booklet are unanimously "passionate" about where they live, apparently, but their diverse blurbs don't give you the foggiest idea what the election is all about.

"I successfully fought to get you Pak'n'Save" , "As deputy head boy at Rosmini College I excelled at debates", "I'm a registered drainlayer".

It's all over the show. This month's Metro cover story "Babes! Sharks!" says the Herald has gone tabloid and is taking a simplistic black-and-white, good-and-bad approach to the news. Metro assumes this is a bad thing. I wonder whether perhaps they're the ones being simplistic.

Because sometimes you need to cut through all the extraneous blather and take a clear position to make sense of complicated things. That is what is missing in this election; a blockbuster issue we can feel black and white about.

Whether that is toxic sea slugs, saving the St James or a train link to the airport, there must be something that can unite people in their disagreement. Otherwise, no one really knows where they stand. I'm not going to tell you how to vote but I do hope that you will choose something you actually care about, not just the wishy-washy blobbiness of "improving the city".

My friend the late Graeme Hunt, who was standing for the Waitakere ward and the health board, would approve, I think. He was a formidable man who took robust positions on issues and didn't pussyfoot around.

Graeme died suddenly before the election so you can't vote for him now but you can remember it is important to take a stand. Don't just be blandly "passionate" about where you live.

- NZ Herald

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