Over the last couple of weeks you will have noticed signage going up in your neighbourhood promoting local candidates for your wards, district, city and regional councils as well as the District Health Board. With Auckland and Wellington looking for new Mayors and Christchurch watching an established incumbent taking on a wild card, it is time to see how the big four (Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch)are going.
In Christchurch the race for the Mayoralty is a two horse affair. Incumbent Lianne Dalziel, after some time spent hesitating, announced in July she would seek another term as Mayor. Her Mayoralty has been marked by some controversial decisions about rates and social housing in Christchurch post-earthquake, but given she inherited a dysfunctional council struggling in the after math of New Zealand’s costliest natural disaster ever, Ms Dalziel has done very well. Her rival is John Minto, a former teacher turned unionist/social activist. Mr Minto is campaigning on a socialist agenda that includes capping the income of the highest paid staff in the Christchurch City Council (including the Mayor, and Chief Executive); free public transport and swimmable rivers. Mr Minto moved to Christchurch a couple of years ago, whereas Ms Dalziel was Member of Parliament for Christchurch East for a significant period of time.
Prediction: Lianne Dalziel
Wellington is perhaps the most fascinating race. With seven candidates standing for Mayor, Wellingtonians will not be short for choice. And with the decision of incumbent mayor Celia Wade Brown to quit, the interest will be high. A combination of councillors, independents and a former Mayor of Porirua mean the challenge will be finding a clear difference between their policy platforms. The city has numerous challenges, such as reducing quake prone buildings – a priority given Wellington had a damaging magnitude 6.6 earthquake in August 2013 and a smaller magnitude 5.7 in December 2011. It also has several items with hefty expenditure on the horizon, including an airport runway upgrade.
Prediction: Nick Leggett
Like Wellington, Hamilton is looking for a new Mayor after Julie Hardaker decided not to contest the Mayoralty. The field of candidates wanting to be Mayor of Hamilton includes Councillor Rob Pascoe and Councillor Ewan Wilson, who used to operate Kiwi Air. Other candidates include Paula Southgate, who became respected for her work at Waikato Regional Council and her time as a teacher and counsellor in the mental health sector.
Prediction: Paula Southgate
In Auckland, former Labour Member of Parliament for Mt Roskill, Phil Goff is standing for Mayor. Mr Goff, who has spent most of his life in Auckland and was Minister of Justice and Minister of Foreign Affairs in the Government of Helen Clark seems to be a shoo in, despite several other candidates lining up. Some of them share his more centre-right views, such as Vic Crone who denies man made climate change is happening, and John Palino who who is a businessman born in the United States. It also features a young woman named Chloe Swarbrick whose campaign is running on minimal resources, but whose polling has managed to reach 4%, perhaps attracted by her platform of listening rather than setting out policies.
Prediction: Phil Goff