It's obvious that the retiring Central Hawke's Bay Mayor, Peter Butler, doesn't read my weekly musings in Hawke's Bay Today.

Had he bothered to do so he would have known that a powerful factor in local election success is name recognition.

Not long ago there was reference to the fact that when voters are confronted with long lists of candidates they will very often opt for a name they know.

Peter Butler's attempt to make sitting regional councillor Tom Belford reveal his email and telephone records for a 17 day period last month amounts to a timely and very valuable gift to Councillor Belford.


It put him on the front page of Hawke's Bay Today just when the Hawke's Bay electors are filling in their voting papers.

It's hard to comprehend what possessed Mayor Butler.

His "official request" for Tom Belford's telephone and email traffic was never going to be fulfilled before the local polls closed and even if this showed Mr Belford communicated with all of the people and organisations on Butler's list, who cares?

It would only demonstrate that Councillor Belford was doing his job.

Peter Butler would not comment on why he had requested the information. We can only suppose that he's a secret supporter of Tom Belford.

The Hawke's Bay local elections are more interesting than those going on in Auckland.
The Auckland Mayoralty, arguably the second most powerful position in New Zealand politics, seems a foregone conclusion with all of the polls putting Phil Goff miles ahead in a huge field.

Commentators put this down to Phil's long political track record and his name recognition, but the plain fact is that he is far and away the best candidate in the field.

His multi-cultural electorate of Mount Roskill, which he's held for many years, in many ways resembles what Auckland is rapidly becoming.

The only bit of fun here was a minor candidate's debate at Auckland University on Tuesday evening which the New Zealand Herald described as a "chaotic fracas".

Adam Holland, the Auckland Legalise Marijuana candidate, showed up in a kaftan with his face painted brown and kept shouting what he thought was "god is great" in Arabic. He later explained his behaviour by claiming that he was "trying to defuse the situation" and that he was "incredibly drunk".

The only candidate to come out of this widely covered debacle was the young journalist, Chloe Swarbrick, who attempted to broker some sort of peace in what was genuine havoc.

I think we'll hear more of Ms Swarbrick. Her campaign on social media has real cut-through with her generally alienated generation and it will be fascinating to see if her efforts improve turn-out numbers of younger people.

I'd hoped that the water issues in Hawke's Bay - the free aquifer water for bottlers, the contamination scandal in Havelock North and the highly contentious Ruataniwha dam - would have boosted voter participation in Hawke's Bay.

So far this doesn't appear to be happening and the miserably low turnout rates of the last few polls appears to be recurring.

Still, developments on the Ruataniwha dam front may still have the potential to motivate punters to tick the boxes and post off their votes.

By announcing that it will seek authority to acquire the land under the Public Works Act, the Hawke's Bay Regional Investment Company (HBRIC) has given a two fingered salute to voters who are dubious about the project.

This was not a clever move as all Public Works Act confiscations are ultimately political decisions and the National led government will not thank HBRIC for lobbing this hot potato into its lap.

Prime Minister Key has gone out of his way to give this government a greenish tinge and the powerful conservation lobby, which has tendrils deep within the National Party, will be vigilant about attempt to snaffle a "specially protected area" thought to contain remnants of endangered fauna.

Early in the life of the government it quickly backed off a proposal that would have allowed mining in national parks, and hastily squashed any suggestion of gold mining on Great Barrier Island.

More recently John Key stole the show at a United Nations meeting last September when he announced the Kermadec Ocean Sanctuary.

This will be one of the largest aquatic refuges in the world and got the PM valuable kudos. Getting even greener in July the government set targets to make New Zealand 'predator-free' by 2050.

HBRIC's actions may well force Mr Key's government into the position where it appears to be the predator in election year.

Whatever happens, a quick outcome is unlikely and this shemozzle could easily drag into 2017.

The government will know that this mess could have been foreseen and avoided.

Voters should know that millions of your dollars could easily be wasted.

Mike Williams grew up in Hawke's Bay. He is CEO of the NZ Howard League and a former Labour Party president. All opinions are his and not those of Hawke's Bay Today.