There's a candidate in the council elections this year standing for two different positions, on a different party ticket for each position. What's that about? There's a party ticket where some candidates support one of the mayoral candidates but others don't. Doesn't that make a nonsense of the "ticket"?
And there's more. Two councillors are campaigning for re-election in the same ward together, on a single ticket, sharing billboards, but their voting record this past term has been wildly divergent. They're not a team, so who are they trying to kid? And for two other councillors, it's just the reverse: they're standing for re-election in the same ward, almost always vote the same way, but they're not standing together.
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And what do all those names mean anyway? What clues do Waitākere Local Board voters get about candidates' intentions from the names Future West and WestWards? What about the poor voters in the North Shore ward, who must choose two councillors from among one "independent" and four candidates representing Taking the Shore Forward, More for the Shore and A Positive Voice for the Shore. What does any of that mean?
When it comes time to vote in the council elections, how are you supposed to know who's who and what they believe, with this kind of carry-on?
The candidate standing on two different tickets is Danielle Grant, standing for North Shore ward and Kaipātiki Local Board.
The ticket with split mayoral affiliations is Communities & Ratepayers (C&R). Christine Fletcher is John Tamihere's running mate. She's standing on the C&R ticket, not a Tamihere ticket, but that doesn't mean you should assume anything about other C&R candidates' views of Tamihere. Some are sympathetic, some are downright antagonistic.
C&R says it doesn't endorse mayoral candidates, but that's a position designed to avoid embarrassment. When Fletcher signed on with Tamihere, why didn't they insist she stand on a ticket with him? Doesn't it mislead voters not to do so?
The two councillors on the same billboards who keep voting against each other are Alf Filipaina and Fa'anana Efeso Collins in Manukau. Both Labour, but that's where it stops.
The two councillors who aren't standing together but who agree on almost everything are Chris Darby and Richard Hills in the North Shore ward. Darby is Taking the Shore Forward, Hills is A Positive Voice for the Shore. Whatever they mean.
To their credit, Albany's two councillors, Wayne Walker and John Watson, who do commonly vote together, are standing together. Their ticket is Putting People First: unfortunately, it's another anodyne name that tells you nothing. Are there any candidates anywhere who believe they are not putting people first?
Blandishments about people, family and community, opportunity and safety, fill the websites and videos and pamphlets of almost all the candidates. So how do you choose?
The best way is to go to a candidates' debate or meeting. Nothing beats being able to size up the quality of a person and their views face-to-face. Keep an eye out in local media and on social media for meeting details.
THE LIST of candidates for mayor, governing body, local boards, district health boards and licensing trusts makes fascinating reading. Well, you know. Let's just say I did it so you don't have to.
As previously advertised, a certifiable A-grade sports star is standing: former All Black Keven Mealamu is running for the Papakura Local Board. Sport is a great springboard into politics: the big name recognition helps enormously, but they're also quite likely to have the necessary skills. Sport requires teamwork and leadership, clear decision-making, enormous commitment and the ability to turn failure into success.
Don't knock it. Sports stars in politics can be pretty good at getting things done. In fact, with all those politically useful qualities, and name recognition, it's a surprise we don't have more sports-star politicians. There's a Tony Woodcock standing for another local board, but it's not Mealamu's old All Blacks front row buddy.
The Bruce Kendall standing for the Howick Local Board, though, actually is the former Olympian board sailor. He doesn't have a party affiliation but he's made a name for himself locally campaigning on issues like erosion on the beaches. And former league player Richie Barnett is standing for C&R, also for the Howick board.
Other sports stars are now gone. Sir John Walker is retiring from council this year; councillor Dick Quax died of cancer last year; Graham Lowe stood for a local board in 2016 but was unsuccessful. It's 21 years now since Les Mills was Auckland City mayor.
As for Mealamu, what does he want to do? He's standing for a ticket called Papakura First and his promotional video says he wants Papakura to be a great place for young people to grow up and for the elderly "to feel included and safe". He values diversity in the community.
There's your problem: like putting people first, these are views that tell you little because almost everyone shares them. Why don't more candidates do like Bruce Kendall and promote real issues?
ANOTHER WAY to judge a candidate is to measure them against some key requirements. Here's my list of six.
1. Do they support slow and steady rates rises? Big rates rises are too hard on too many people. Very low or zero rates rises inevitably create the need for big rises later on, so necessary spending can catch up. It's dumb planning that undermines the city and hurts ratepayers.
2. Do they want more cycle lanes? It's not the biggest transport issue. But it is a great pointer to some big issues: will they prioritise Auckland roads becoming safer for everyone, children as well as adults; and do they take climate change seriously?
3. Do they want to build public confidence in council services? Council's job is to make the city function well and thereby improve the lives of citizens. Yes, they can and must always do it better. But it doesn't help if your candidate thinks it's all a conspiracy to screw over your life.
4. Do they want to help the homeless? That requires support for Housing First, a wraparound programme led by the City Mission. Or do they simply want to "ban the beggars"?
5. Do they support the arts? An active appreciation of cultural expression in the city – from Polyfest to the Philharmonia – is an insightful guide to whether a candidate values the best in communities.
6. Do they talk about an integrated approach to environmental, economic, social and cultural goals? If they think those values inevitably work against each other, they're still struggling to join the 21st century.
Of course, you may disagree with all of that. In which case, you'll probably still find the list valuable. Just use it in reverse.
THERE ARE 20 seats for ward councillors on the governing body, along with the mayor. In two of them, Franklin and Rodney, the sitting councillor is unopposed. In two more, Waitākere and Manurewa-Papakura, there are retirements.
The leading contenders in both are sitting local board members. Angela Dalton, Manurewa board chair, has resigned that role and thrown her all into standing for ward councillor. Out west, Henderson-Massey chair Shane Henderson is standing for governing body but also for the board. Greg Presland, a member of the Waitākere Ranges board, is doing the same. They're both on the Labour ticket, chasing two spots, although one is held by the popular incumbent Linda Cooper. Candidates elected as a councillor and local board member must give the board seat up.
Leading candidates aside, there are always some upsets. The wards where sitting councillors are perhaps most at risk this year include North Shore, Waitematā, Whau, Maungakiekie-Tāmaki and Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa.
North Shore pitches Chris Darby and Richard Hills, respectively chair and deputy chair of the planning committee, against contenders unhappy with council plans to turn Takapuna's Anzac Ave car park into a public square fringed by buildings. The battle is about how Auckland is being developed citywide, seen through the prism of an intensely local issue.
Hills, who narrowly beat Shore stalwart Grant Gillon for the seat last election, is an unusual councillor. He's the only "young" one: he's 33 and most of the others are over 60. He's the only openly gay councillor, and one of only two Māori (the other is Alf Filipaina, who is Samoan and Māori).
He's been active representing the ward, but has some much larger constituencies who don't get the chance to vote for him. If there's a good case for having at least some councillors elected citywide, Hills embodies one of the reasons why.
Waitematā has a fascinating race. In this single-seat ward, incumbent Mike Lee is standing again and faces two leading contenders: local board chair Pippa Coom, who wants to step up and is not seeking board re-election, and newcomer Sarah Trotman. Coom is on the City Vision ticket, a coalition of Labour, Green and other progressives. Lee used to enjoy City Vision endorsement himself, but that's been withheld this year. Trotman is standing for C&R.
The conventional wisdom is that Lee and Coom could split the centre-left vote and allow Trotman to come through the middle. But Lee and Coom are not close. She tends to support Goff while Lee votes against pretty much every initiative Goff is associated with – even when it benefits Waitematā in the eyes of almost every other councillor.
Coom has been a champion of a traffic-calmed, pedestrian-friendly, bike-friendly, reinvigorated city centre. The vote in that ward is a vote for or against that approach.
In Whau, outgoing local board chair Tracy Mulholland is mounting a strong challenge for C&R against the incumbent, finance committee chair Ross Clow. He's Labour and she used to be Labour, so it's a clenched-teeth fight.
In Maungakiekie-Tāmaki, incumbent Josephine Bartley, the city's first Pasifika woman councillor, won the ward in a by-election after Denise Lee took the Maungakiekie seat in Parliament in 2017. Bartley will have to overcome adverse boundary changes to keep her place against C&R's Josh Beddell, who lost to her in that by-election but is back for another go.
Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa has two seats, one held by City Vision's Cathy Casey, who topped the poll last election, the other by C&R's Christine Fletcher. Both have a strong candidate called Mark standing with them: Casey has Mark Graham, an activist, publisher and expert on housing and construction; Fletcher has Mark Thomas, an urban planning consultant.
The question is: what impact will Fletcher's association with John Tamihere have? As his running mate, she'll become deputy mayor if he wins the mayoral race. Will the association lift her vote or will it damage her? And what will that do to Thomas? He tends to favour Tamihere over Goff but unlike Fletcher has declined to endorse him. Does that make him the "sensible" C&R candidate, or the stranded one?
WHO ELSE is standing?
There are 21 candidates for mayor, of whom three appear to believe they have a chance of winning (Craig Lord, along with Goff and Tamihere). Some of the others are "independents" with inscrutable personal motives, while the remainder are using the election as a platform to promote a cause.
Which is perfectly legit, it's one of the valuable roles of an election. Candidates for STOP Trashing Our Planet, Justice for Families, Christians Against Abortion and the Communist League are all arguably in this category.
Mayor Goff is not the only former MP to feature on the lists. Some of his old Labour comrades in arms are deeply ensconced in local boards, including Richard Northey (Waitematā), Ashraf Choudhary and Ross Robertson (Otara-Papatoetoe), George Hawkins (Papakura) and Ann Hartley (Kaipātiki). Former Labour MPs Chris Carter (Henderson-Massey) and Peter Neilson (Manurewa) are hoping to join them.
Former MPs on the National side include Christine Fletcher, standing for re-election as an Albert-Eden-Puketāpapa ward councillor, and Ian Revell, who's having his second run at the Devonport-Takapuna board.
Grant Gillon, meanwhile, formerly an Alliance MP, has served on the Devonport-Takapuna and Kaipātiki boards but this year is standing for neither. Instead, he's having his fourth (!) crack at becoming a North Shore ward councillor.
Only one former Supercity councillor is still active: Sandra Coney, on the governing body 2010-2013, is seeking a third term on the Waitākere Ranges local board and is also standing for re-election to the Waitematā District Health Board. But she's standing down from the Portage Licensing Trust. Even Sandra Coney has to ease up sometime.
There's not as much churn as you might wish. Most of the people named above are among the dozens of candidates for council and the various boards and trusts who've been around since before the start of the Supercity in 2010. That's four elections ago. Serving your community in elected local office is as attractive to many retired people as it ever was.
Still, Hartley's 21-year-old grandson Louis is standing alongside her for the Kaipātiki board and many other young people are also trying to get in the mix.
The Hartleys aren't alone in making it a family affair, and it's definitely a Shore thing: Gillon's daughter Paula and son John are both standing for that Kaipātiki board, which serves the Northcote- Birkenhead-Glenfield area. Husband and wife Brian and Vanessa Neeson are hoping to be back for another three years, he on the Upper Harbour board and she next door at Henderson-Massey.
There aren't that many high-profile names, although fashionista Dame Denise L'Estrange-Corbet is standing for the Waitematā board, as is indefatigable heritage campaigner Allan Matson.
George Wood and Anne Hartley, both former North Shore mayors and councillors, are still powerhouses on the Shore. She heads the Kaipātiki Voice ticket for that local board. He's chasing re-election to the Devonport-Takapuna board as leader of, wait for it ... Team George Wood.
In Howick, local celebrity Steve Udy stepped down from the board in 2016 citing conflicts with "ego-driven" members associated with MP Jami-Lee Ross. But Ross has since fallen from grace and Udy, now in his mid-70s, is back in the ring.
Former United Future leader Damien Light (the one who looks like Ryan Gosling) is making his second run at the Howick ward. Real actor Fasitua Amosa is up for election to the Whau board. He's also the voice of Mitre 10 Mega.
And who's going to make it really fun? Tricia Cheel, aka STOP Trashing Our Planet, enlivens every meeting she attends, and she attends a lot of meetings. Not everyone finds her entertaining, it should be said. Perennial anti-cycleway campaigner Lisa Prager, she of the white Stetson, is not standing for office this year.
But "Fiona" is. She's up for mayor. She says she thinks it was a terrible mistake and has asked that all publicity requests go through comedian Tom Sainsbury. He's the guy who made everyone laugh with his Paula Bennett impersonations in the last general election and then made the Green Party blush deepest red with his Simon Bridges voice impersonation earlier this year.
You can find Fiona doing wine reviews on Facebook. And no, she doesn't sound like a politician at all.