As a junior reporter I covered a lot of council related news. It drove me to the point of madness and I got out of there as quickly as I could - but it left scars.

And while it was a dark and uncomfortable period of my life it also taught me a thing or two; one - most of the employees at local councils are efficient and hard-working, and two - most of the elected councillors are a unique mix of ego, hubris and lunacy.

I know many a distinguished political career has its origins at the coal face of local body politics, but for most of those it was merely a stepping stone to bigger and better things; you have to start somewhere.

For those who make a career out of it there's something just a little 'off' about them. They're right up in the top echelons of George's Compendium of Reprehensible Individuals - just ahead of traffic wardens and slightly behind campervan drivers and rugby referees.


As an aside, isn't it great to see Australian ref Angus Gardner in action? He's certainly doing all he can to debunk the stereotype of the incompetent, prancing, malcontent that the majority of his counterparts uphold so well as they laud themselves over a game like old school masters.

Well, anyway, a great many of these local body types gathered in Dunedin this week for Local Government New Zealand's annual meeting. I can only imagine the kind of borefest this would be. I was even tempted to go down and have a look, but I've been watching Stranger Things on Netflix and can only take so much stark raving madness and bad haircuts.

Mind you I didn't have to wait long to get that - NewsHub on Monday night carried a story about a man named Mike Milne who's battling the Westland District Council over his business, Cowboy Paradise. They've shut it down due to compliance issues in a story that's becoming all too familiar in New Zealand.

There is so much bureaucratic red tape to cut through it's amazing anyone stays in business at all. While the council is probably technically correct most of the time, they need to stop acting like most other referees and be a more like Angus Gardner.

It's issues like this I'm hoping people such as West Coast cow cocky Andy Thompson can rectify if he ascends the Mayoral throne. The card-carrying member of the National Party (he actually has a National card in his wallet) has decided to throw his hat in the ring to become mayor of Westland.

He's been a long time contributor to The Country and its predecessor, The Farming Show, and despite the fact he's become a glorious whipping boy for the host, he generally displays a fair smattering of common sense. He did a fine job of being the public face of the West Coast floods and clean-up operation earlier this year even though it's a face only a mother could love.

Sadly, a practitioner of common sense like Cr Thompson is a rare beast among local body politicians. We have a situation in Dunedin where one councillor has filed defamation claims against the Mayor to the tune of $500,000. It's been reported ratepayers could be left with part of the bill to pay in the unlikely event the Mayor loses.

This appalling waste of time and money stems from someone calling someone else a liar, clear proof of my earlier hubris claim aimed at local body politicians. But I suppose you get who you voted for, even if the number was extraordinarily low.

Maybe this is the problem - cast your eye over your current representation at local level, have a look at their track record and see how many rules and regulations they've implemented to add to the total sum of your life's misery.

And if you didn't vote, or voted poorly, then give yourself an uppercut and make sure you do the right thing this year. I understand deciding who to vote for is often an exercise in wading through the shallow end of the gene pool but if you didn't vote, you can't complain.

If the Local Government New Zealand's annual meeting taught us anything it was surely to oust those more unhinged members of councils who have an inflated sense of their own self-worth.

Hopefully there was enough discussion of the weekend's footy action and referee Gardner's performance at the conference that some may have come away thinking you can always find something to blow the whistle for, but sometimes you just need to let the game flow...