Nine weeks out from the election, I lodged my local board candidate nomination and the journey began. A fresh-faced candidate lacking any friends with experience in the game on a journey of discovery.
Invitations to candidate meetings soon followed and the realisation that I would need to
keep my wits about me on a platform with experienced local politicians.
• Local Body elections: The new mayor and councillors by town
• Local body elections: follow our live updates
• Only in West Auckland: Hilarious local election 'candidate' billboard goes viral
• Local council elections: 'Diversity burst' shatters council old boys' club
Ahead of this was the need to generate the creative aspects of my campaign, a website presence, Facebook identity and election material. Costs soon escalate and one is quickly aware that as an independent candidate you have none of the economies of scale available to groups. Additionally, you are on your own and reliant entirely on your own skill set.
The first candidate meeting at Sunnynook and I arrive at the wrong location but get lucky with the right venue not far away. It's good preparation as the audience only marginally outnumbers the 19 candidates in attendance. We do get to meet the NZ Trump party for the first time with their lead candidate offering a future of ghettos and rat infestations thanks to the unitary plan. As candidates, whether having held office or not, we are all evidently to blame.
Locating hoardings across the community presents a different challenge, why would the average householder in a high-vis location want to sport your face outside their property for two months?
My round signs are only 0.8m in diameter and handily slot between others. Of 15 signs, one on a vacant site subsequently has to be moved, one gets blocked by a housing development (ironic on account of my "Keep our Open Spaces" campaign motto) and another on a council site gets demolished by person unknown five times.
Social media is a complex beast and teams with skin in the game and more numbers on the ground have far more traction than myself. A chance meeting teaches me the importance of boosting Facebook posts so I set a modest budget and across the campaign boost three of my more meaningful posts. These extend the reach to audiences into the thousands but did it make a difference? No one will ever know.
Twelve thousand fliers arrive and, having opted to avoid bulk distribution, my small delivery team and I set to work. Protocol is to deliver to all boxes other than those marked "NZ Post" or "Addressed mail only" and, reassuringly, I receive no mail complaints.
Viv Beck: CRL works are disruptions of biblical proportions
Barney Irvine: Aucklanders want rapid transit, so get on with it
Jeremy Tindall: Easy but not classy solution to traffic woes
I meet one lady born in the same Birmingham street as I once lived and another whose father designed a monorail for Auckland. Five bike falls and 10 days later, all flyers have been distributed, many satisfyingly sandwiched between ballot papers.
The last two candidate meetings at Devonport and Milford are well attended, and the first is fiery with talk of death threats on Facebook against council candidates. I'm pleased with my presentations having learnt not to rely on notes and to seek a rapport with the audience. Other candidates have mixed showings. Remarkably, one candidate makes his first appearance at the last meeting having been at the Rugby World Cup and goes on to be the top-polling candidate.
And so to election day, when I get to lodge my own vote, picking just two of the six successful candidates as it later transpires. A nervous wait and, while exocycling in the early evening, a good pal phones to offer "congratulations, and commiserations" by which I learn my political fate.
It transpires that I've placed ninth of 18 candidates. Seventeen thousand votes cast and I received 4807 - 770 votes short of those required for office. Commendations are received from close friends and family, all seemingly proud of my performance, but life tends not to reward second place.
Was it worth it? You bet. I met a passionate group of folk who in many cases wanted political office more than I did. And I avoided the uncertainty of not knowing whether I could have made it.
Had I known that 18 candidates would be standing, I might have re-considered but I'm still pleased to have entered the contest. Only question now is, what's next?
• Chartered accountant Paul Cornish was a first-time candidate for the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board