Apathy was the winner on the day when it came to the weekend's local body elections.
With turnout around the country generally below 50 percent (and in some cases below 35 percent) no mayor, councillor, and DHB member can claim they have the mandate of the people. It’s because people largely didn't bother voting. Chapter and verse can, and is, being given on why this is so. But the fact is people just don't give a proverbial about their local body politicians and the problem's getting worse.
I admit my own shortcomings in this area. While I did vote, it was very much at the last minute and motivated by guilt more than anything else. As a political reporter, I should know what's going on in politics in my community. But I'll admit as far as the Wellington Council, regional council, and local DHB were concerned, I was as much in the dark as anyone else. And dear God, I wish it had stayed that way.
Researching the candidates turned into a torment on a par with the seventh circle of the pit of hell. At least that's what my wailing and gnashing of teeth may have suggested as I perused the candidate bio's and statements.
My heart sank as I read the interminable waffle written by those who purported to represent my interests. Why local government forces candidates to write with the style and panache of rancid custard quite escapes me. I now fully understand why most people bin the voting information. It's the sort of material that should be forced on recidivist offenders, juvenile delinquents, and teenagers serving school detention.
I don't need this sort of punishment - nor do the rest of you. So here's a new rule: aspiring political candidates who can’t express an idea clearly in writing should be immediately disqualified. And if that disqualification involves them being dumped in warm phlegm, then so much the better.
The reason people don't give a damn about local body politics is probably because it's so damn tedious and so damn nebulous. It appears, on the surface, to be a succession of beige candidates with beige ideals. Figuring out exactly what they stand for is a task beyond us mere mortals.
I don't mean to dump on those who've taken the time to put themselves forward for office. It's a thankless task and they deserve respect for giving it a go. But for whatever reason, local body politics has all the appearance of being dull, distant, and divorced from the realities of most peoples' lives.
Until that changes, voters will remain switched off.
Photo: Getty Images