Coali­tion-free councils much eas­ier to elect


New Zealand is wait­ing in a state of con­sti­tu­tional hia­tus to find out who’s in charge.

We wait for some 384,000 spe­cial votes to be counted in the gen­eral elec­tion – num­bers big enough to al­ter elec­tion night re­sults by a seat or two, but un­likely to see a to­tal re­ver­sal of for­tunes.

We wait to see who will blink first, whether Na­tional, or Labour and the Greens, will ne­go­ti­ate a deal with New Zealand First leader Win­ston Peters that would al­low them to lead the coun­try, or whether some even more sur­pris­ing coali­tion might emerge.

Mean­time, as hap­pened in 1996, the world keeps turn­ing. The coun­try keeps work­ing and the es­sen­tials of life con­tinue in the ab­sence of a Govern­ment, cour­tesy of the pub­lic ser­vice.

The un­cer­tainty and de­lay pro­vides scope to ar­gue that city and dis­trict councils make up a rather more rel­e­vant and im­por­tant, nim­ble and ef­fec­tive, form of govern­ment.

Elec­tors ba­si­cally get what they vote for, or at least, in an STV elec­tion, a por­tion of what they vote for.

That con­tin­ues to be the case, de­spite the fact that cen­tral govern­ment party pol­i­tics came to the Palmer­ston North City Coun­cil in 2016.

It was the first time in decades that po­lit­i­cal par­ties, Labour and the Greens, launched overt cam­paigns to elect their se­lected can­di­dates.

Mayor Grant Smith de­cried the move, com­plain­ing that party pol­i­tics had no place in the coun­cil cham­ber.

But oth­ers ar­gued it was sim­ply a more open and hon­est way of let­ting vot­ers know the po­lit­i­cal colours and val­ues of the in­di­vid­u­als stand­ing for elec­tion.

It could also, it was sug­gested, in­crease the chances of peo­ple from di­verse back­grounds achiev­ing elec­tion with the sup­port of party fund­ing and cam­paign­ing across the whole city, nec­es­sary since the abo­li­tion of wards.

On lo­cal govern­ment elec­tion night, the Green’s sole can­di­date Brent Bar­rett charged in as a re­sound­ing win­ner.

And Labour’s Lorna John­son, pre­vi­ously un­suc­cess­ful when stand­ing in her per­sonal ca­pac­ity, was elected, al­though the other three can­di­dates on the ticket were not. The sky did not fall. The re­sults were in and the spe­cial votes were un­likely to do any more than make the low­est-polling suc­cess­ful can­di­date and the high­est-polling un­suc­cess­ful can­di­date a lit­tle ner­vous for a cou­ple of weeks.

There was a bit of a hia­tus, with the mayor and coun­cil­lors not em­pow­ered to act on var­i­ous du­ties and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­til the dec­la­ra­tion of the fi­nal re­sults and their swear­ing in.

For the most part, the elec­tion over, the coun­cil­lors just got on with the job. All of them. No need for coali­tion talks or ne­go­ti­a­tions. No pe­riod of limbo while they all jock­eyed for po­si­tion.

There was no need for the mayor to sit down with the two party-en­dorsed coun­cil­lors and ask them whether they wanted to be on the gov­ern­ing team, or sit in op­po­si­tion.

The vot­ers, al­though ob­vi­ously not all of the vot­ers, had elected them to a seat at the coun­cil ta­ble and they were part of the team.

Of course, only hav­ing one of each has made things sim­ple.

They do not have a party col­league to cau­cus with before mak­ing up their minds on var­i­ous is­sues.

And they cer­tainly don’t have to con­fer with party chiefs about what to do and say.


The Tri­bune wel­comes let­ters. They should not ex­ceed 250 words and must carry a gen­uine name, home ad­dress and day­time phone num­ber. Let­ters may be edited, abridged or omit­ted with­out ex­pla­na­tion. They can be emailed to tri­ or posted to PO Box 3, Palmer­ston North to be re­ceived by 4pm on the Thurs­day prior to pub­li­ca­tion.

‘‘It's dis­ap­point­ing to see what's hap­pened in Mil­son but no­body can con­trol the weather.’’ ‘‘Elec­tors ba­si­cally get what they vote for, or at least, in an STV elec­tion, a por­tion of what they vote for.’’ Ja­nine Rankin

Lorna John­son, Gabrielle BundyCooke and Brent Bar­rett.

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