Bob Jones: It's vote-and-hope for competence at top

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Currently, Auckland's mayoralty race lacks competitive interest, says Bob Jones. Photo / Doug Sherring
Currently, Auckland's mayoralty race lacks competitive interest, says Bob Jones. Photo / Doug Sherring

There was a time when the mayoralty of our major cities commanded considerable prestige as a cap on a successful professional or commercial career. History reveals many important mayors of an earlier age. Sadly no longer.

Instead, everywhere there are mayors and councillors devoid of even the faintest credentials for any public office. Indeed, some have never had a job, suggesting they're financially motivated.

Given perks such as the sister cities silliness and ratepayer-funded jaunts to them, free cars, telephones, etc, being mayor is quite appealing for the unaccomplished.

I suspect voters are conscious of that as I've observed how they repeatedly backlash against the most heavily advertised mayoral candidates, as if suspicious of such hunger for the office.

We can only speculate why obvious potential candidates now shy away, but cannot condemn those who do stand, humdrum though they may be.

Someone must or we'll have no democracy.

Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper recently rightly condemned the city's business community for its constant grumbling about the mayor's alleged ineptitude, saying, put someone up or shut up. That's now happened.

Currently, Auckland's mayoralty race lacks competitive interest, the assumption being that Len Brown will be returned, as no noteworthy challenger has yet emerged.

But the last five elections resulted in voters ejecting the incumbent - a source of bemusement to outsiders - so nothing can be assumed.

Len might break the pattern for when in Auckland, I hear grudging respect for him from types normally opposed to a Labour candidate.

In the capital, councillor and former test cricketer, the droll, no-nonsense John Morrison has thrown his hat in the ring and, despite some appalling initial advertising, should win.

He's personally instigated major events in the city and persuaded an Australian company to shift its call centre there, in the process creating about 300 jobs of the ilk which as an administration centre, Wellington lacks.

In contrast, the mayor is seen as a hopeless ditherer. It will be recalled that to emphasise her green credentials, to everyone's deep embarrassment, she bicycled to the airport to formally welcome American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, an action so mind-bogglingly wet, the civil defence authorities considered issuing a flood warning.

In Christchurch the likeable and competent Lianne Dalziel will be seeking the mayoralty. She should bolt in as Bob Parker is viewed disdainfully as a show-pony and retained his office last time only thanks to enormous publicity following the first earthquake.

Before that, to bewilderment elsewhere, retired politician Jim Anderton was miles ahead in the polls.

One suspects that first earthquake was divine intervention, reflecting God's antipathy to Catholics. God hasn't got much going for him at the best of times but to his credit was his destruction of all of the city's churches which I imagine gave him much to tee-hee about. Arrogantly ignoring God's obvious wishes, the churches now want to rebuild. This has led to Anderton, despite being a Catholic, suing the Anglican Church as he dislikes its new design, this a spell-binding disregard for property rights. Such matters are big issues there.

In fairness, no mayor or council is geared to cope with the abrupt destruction of their city. Still, even the usually amiable earthquake minister Gerry Brownlee publicly slammed Parker and his council's incompetence.

Parker says he will be running again but hasn't advised in what direction. My pick is he won't stop until he reaches Invercargill and will then withdraw on some bogus pretence, rather than endure the humiliation awaiting him.

I suspect fed-up Christchurch voters will also toss out all of the current council.

Dunedin is unique as it's been well served by competent mayors, evidenced by the last half dozen being repeatedly re-elected, in most cases for three terms, before retiring.

The current well-credentialed office-holder, Dave Cull, should be returned despite several hats in the ring. A contentious issue is the debt burden from building New Zealand's only roof-covered stadium. It was a bold move although it's pointless carrying on about it now.

Dunedin is our driest city, but the theory was that such an arena would attract so-called concerts by idiot bands with silly names, plus shrieking females prancing about in their underwear, thus drawing vast numbers of visitors.

That's eventuated although whether there's much value in despoiling that lovely city with visiting halfwits wanting to watch factory hands and madwomen bawling into microphones, this racket purportedly music, is highly questionable.

The low turnout for local government elections suggests the public don't consider councils and mayors affect them much, in contrast to central government which certainly does.

Nevertheless, a competent mayor and council can make a difference, so perhaps it's time we put aside our disdain for the candidates and made an effort, even if one's inclination is to vote against the lot of them.

- NZ Herald

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