It is election year – of the local kind. Like it or not we will all be bombarded with pamphlets, emails, door knockers – all of them wannabees driven to be seen at the large table at the Town Hall – or its administrative equivalent. Over recent months we have been lucky to be able to watch Council proceedings on our home desk screens and what riveting stuff that was!
Pardon the cynicism – I did it myself many years ago when elected for four three-year terms in Wellington. And used to watch with a mixture of horror and amusement as the job-for-life local body manager would tie up newly elected entrants with jargon, obscurantism and general unhelpfulness. All beautifully masked with an overlay of ‘I know best’. I even recall in those far-off times being beseeched by the General Manager to read the antepenultimate paragraph in his wordy and meaningless report. And in those days a clause in the appropriate local body act absolutely reserved the right for continuity of employment.
That said there is now – in most cases – a much more professional senior management in local body enclaves and I am heartened this week to read a report from the relatively new General Manager of the Hamilton City Council. That is a council, which over recent years, has spent too much time handwringing and attempting to rid itself of its pseudonym that reflects a relationship with bovine animals.
But there is light on the horizon where the senior official at that council has been gutsy enough to basically state that it is time to cut out the chaff and get on with dealing with the wheat. Too many fingers in too many pies and pandering to impossible localised dreams.
And what he is really saying is that anyone who aspires to become elected needs to do their homework before they enter the large doors of the speak-fest auditorium. And here I totally agree with him. Just three months out from the October election, there are (currently) two aspirants for the role of Mayor of Waipa. One a long-standing local body professional now also with three election terms under his belt and the other a younger barrister with a family that has a well-respected track record in the political spectrum.
Both come from – or at least reside in – the western side of the electoral district. Both, I am sure, have much to offer. Both will have done their homework. I was disappointed the other day to hear a Cambridge worthy bemoaning the fact that there is not a residential entrant from ‘our’ side of Waipa. Well, that is because no-one of any real talent, depth of knowledge and wide-ranging experience appears capable of being recognised as suitable. And further, if it becomes a three horse (or heaven-forbid greater) race the election will be split and we will not get the leader we deserve. There is ample evidence over recent years of ‘western’ based mayors being even-handed in their geographical interests and input.
Looming ahead is further local body reform. The last time this happened – 1989 – the district was split by small-minded parochialism as to choosing a name. So the chairman of the commission organising the re-shape layered us with the name of possibly the dirtiest looking river in the North Island.
Time to think big people. Time to choose a leader who can appreciate the true meaning of governance, stand clear away from management and simply be a rational and clear-thinking leader devoid of the petty frivolities that too often invade the Council.