There's a councillor in Auckland who is so ill, he can't do his job properly. Another who, to judge from the questions asked, understands almost nothing from the background papers or the discussions. A third who always votes no to everything.

Another votes against every budget measure, even when it brings improvements to his ward, but writes himself up in the local paper as the hero defending local interests. Another is famous for hanging around supermarket car parks at election time and pushing people's trollies to their cars.

Among the local boards, some prioritise their work, make plans, work skilfully with the officers of council, council agencies and utilities, and deliver: new parks, libraries and community centres, roading improvements, better street lighting, business and employment initiatives, youth activities, cultural events.


Others don't even spend their budget. Some are little more than fiefdoms from which petty Pooh-Bahs dispense favours and issue complaints. It's not just that they're negative. They're unambitious for their areas, and ineffectual.

How about we get some better politicians for Auckland? Fancy yourself for the job, or someone you know? There's a council election in October.

You could stand for the governing body, which is the 20 ward councillors and the mayor, but it's very tough to break through as an outsider. There are organised groupings for these campaigns, backed by the main political parties, and their money and skills invariably prevail.

Your best bet is your local board. It's a very good bet, actually.

The 21 boards have several positions on each and the voting numbers are not high. You can learn a lot, do good things and, if you're ambitious, prepare yourself to stand for
higher office later on.

Or, you can stand for the governing body and local board at the same time, which should help your board campaign because you'll probably get more media coverage.

Take heart, and lessons, from Chloe Swarbrick. She ran for mayor in 2016 with almost no initial name recognition. She spent only about $1500, but created a profile that kept her in the news and on social media, so she didn't need ads or billboards. She got 29,000 votes, which was massive.

Tips on how to do it:

1. Learn who's who

Most boards contain a mix of wise old heads and boring old farts and you can't tell the difference just by looking. Get to know them a bit: who will help you, who do you want to align with, and who will you have to knock off?

2. Learn what's what
Read the papers and go to their meetings. They're all advertised, with agendas and background papers, on the Auckland Council website: go to About Auckland Council and then How Auckland Council Works.
You can also ask Democracy Services at council for advice.

3. Get a campaign manager
A manager will keep you plugged into media and know how to manage electoral rolls, finances, your diary, other team members, electoral law. Find someone who's done it before, but not a pompous ass stuck on old ways.

4. Get a campaign team
These people will write and design leaflets and posters, and to write media releases, speeches, letters to the papers, Facebook posts; knock on doors and distribute leaflets. They will bring you food.

5. Get a social media manager
The world is Facebook and Facebook is the world. If you understand what this means, exploit it relentlessly. If you don't, find someone who does. They will win you the election if they're good enough.

6. Knock on doors
This also wins elections. Voters like meeting candidates and they admire the effort. When you meet a real fan, enrol them in your campaign.

7. Chat up the shopkeepers
Work out how to combine your goals with theirs. Turn them into your promoters.

8. Get among the community
Market days and fairs, tree-planting and beach cleaning, community group meetings, sports clubs, business groups, parent groups at schools. Work the cake stalls. Be serious about this: if it isn't your life already, it soon will be.

9. Create a distinct profile and promote it relentlessly
The policy statements of most candidates are unfathomable blather. Promise something real, deliverable and exciting. Turn it into a slogan and find creative ways to promote it.
You want to be the person everyone in your area is talking about. But you'll never get everyone so don't worry about the whingers.

10. Raise some money
Ask supporters for donations; if you hold a meeting, pass round the hat.

11. Be the best version of you
Each time Chloe Swarbrick did a debate, she knew more than last time. She was analysing her progress and learning on the job.

Voters everywhere are ready for change. The disaffection invites some nasty populism but it should also give hope to people of goodwill and integrity and talent.
There's a city to run and it needs to be done better. Want to be a part of that?


Today: How to get better politicians

Tomorrow: A dream of a new museum