Garth George: Exercise your right to vote

By Garth George

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Garth George
Garth George

It is no wonder so few citizens cast their votes in local body elections. The system is so unwieldy that it is not surprising that so many simply dump their voting papers in the rubbish - if they even bother to open them.

That is in spite of sterling efforts, particularly by this newspaper, to arouse keen interest in the process, and in spite of all the advertisements and billboards that infest our city right now.

And speaking of billboards, I burst out laughing at these words penned by Paul Little in the Herald on Sunday: "The images of themselves that people have chosen in an attempt to earn our support are unrelievedly unflattering ... In trying to look trustworthy and capable they come across as shifty and desperate."

No one seems to take into account that a far too large percentage of the population of this district is illiterate and unable to read, and a whole lot of others either don't have time to read screeds of bumph, or just couldn't care less. Even those of us who do vote find the process trying.

Overall, there are 55 names on the postal ballot papers looking to fill just 22 positions.

The mayoral election is crucial. With a new chief executive we now have a chance to have a new mayor so we can begin with a clean slate and start cleaning up the mess the district is in.

Why Peter Guerin's contract was not renewed after 11 years' service remains a mystery, but I suspect that councillors felt he had had his day. It's a pity some of them don't see their own positions in the same light.

The most complex ballot is for the Rotorua District Council, for which 31 hopefuls are seeking just 12 positions, eight of them sitting councillors. And the problem is that they are the ones likely to be elected again simply because their names are better known than those of the outsiders who are standing.

That's a damn shame, really, because all but one of them have sat on their comfortable, well-paid council seats for between six and 34 (yes, 34) years while the district, and its city in particular, has gone to the dogs.

These councillors have presided over an increasingly unsupportable debt while the district has remained moribund in terms of population, business and jobs.

In their advertising some point to their council experience, yet experience is only worth something if it has led to success.

As Grant Smithies observed in his column in the Sunday Star-Times a week or so ago:

"Everyone declares themselves a great team player, expresses their intention to keep rates down, and pronounces a commitment to 'keeping them honest'. Superhuman amounts of dedication are promised, often by sitting councillors who've previously shown little aptitude for anything other than warming a council bench and collecting their salary."

However, this is a democracy and all citizens should exercise their privilege to vote - for privilege it is. And those who don't bother need to understand that they have no right to complain if later they disagree with council decisions.

I am fortunate that being retired I usually have time on my hands and have spent an hour or so studying the booklet that comes with the voting papers and making up my mind who to vote for - and who not to vote for.

And even after all that I have been unable to fill the quota for the district council or for the district health board.

My problem is that there are too many candidates who show themselves to be idealists or ideologues, too many who have vested interests in the district, and too many who have an inflated view of their own abilities.

garth.george@hotmail.com

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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