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Where I went wrong

It’s almost as much fun to pick apart one’s own predictions as it is to make them in the first place.  Here is where mine went wrong:

1.  I greatly overestimated the solidity of the A-Team bloc voters.  Based on previous election results I had estimated the size of the A-Team bloc at 1145, as against 1249 for Essentially Waiheke, and I gave both blocs an 80% solidity (meaning 20% of each flock would break ranks on at least one of their candidates).  Maybe my reading of the Essentially Waiheke group was close, but I was way off for the A-Team.  Their solidity was more like 60%; the other 40% broke ranks.  Sue McCann and Shirin Brown were the main beneficiaries of the A-Team weakness.

2.  Voter turnout was quite a bit higher than I had anticipated.  Essentially Waiheke benefited some from this as their bloc was clearly more motivated, but it was the independents — again, Shirin and Sue — who gained the most, as the non-aligned voters didn’t sit this one out.  Thus both were pushed well ahead of the A-Team.

3.  I underestimated the value of Essentially Waiheke’s indirect endorsement of Shirin.  I guessed it would be worth 75% of the EW bloc vote; in fact it was at least 85%.

4.  I gave Faye Storer good credit for name recognition, and took points away from Jo Holmes for strident use of social media, leaving Faye to look calm and above the fray.  As it turns out both of their performances were poor, with only 62 votes separating them.  Don McKenzie, who I thought would be the weakest of the three A-Team candidates, outpolled both of his partners.

5.  I overestimated Graham Hooper’s appeal to the A-Team bloc for their fourth and fifth votes.  I thought 60% of these would go his way; in reality it was more like 20%, and that landed him deep in last place.

6.  I thought Beatle Treadwell would outperform Paul Walden with the independent voters, due to Paul’s history of sometimes pugnacious advocacy.  In fact Paul’s behaviour on the board has been quite statesmanlike this past year, even in his role as a minority of one; and his appeal with the independents, far from weighing him down, has pushed him into first place.

7.  I saw John Meeuwsen as this year’s recipient of the “Nobilangelo Effect”, the tendency of voters to be attracted to an articulate new voice, and that Becs Ballard would be the weakest of the four official EW candidates.  But Becs ended up outpolling John by a hundred votes, and if there was a Nobilangelo this year, it was Shirin Brown who outshone them both.

The lessons of my errors, and of the Local Board election in general, are that Waiheke voters clearly want a stronger advocacy on the part of their local representatives, and that they want more input into the board’s decision-making.  The outgoing board has been effective in many areas, but those areas have been chosen by themselves rather than by consultation with the community; and the community has now pointed this out.  In a way, the election is a rejection of the supercity in which the A-Team candidates have made themselves such experts.  Faye Storer can take some fair credit for helping the entire city to define the treacherously vague relationships between the local boards and Auckland Council, its ponderous bureaucracy and the ill-named “Council-Controlled Organisations”.  The irony is that history may well remember Faye more kindly on the isthmus than on her own island, where a smoothly-running metropolitan juggernaut is exactly what we don’t want.

The challenge for the new board will be to balance the community’s expectations of activism with the practical imperative to get things done.  The mandarins of the supercity may well look upon our election results with suspicion and recalcitrance, perhaps even malevolence; yet as long as the fate of our fair island is yoked to Rodney Hide’s atrocity across the water, some degree of Faye-ness in our dealings with said atrocity is going to be necessary.  Otherwise all our advocacy will be nothing but empty posturing.

Unless, of course, we were to ditch the whole supercity idea and go our own way.  Hmmmm…

Posted in Comment, Elections, Governance.


One Response

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  1. Claude L ewenz says

    Thanks, Mark, for limb climbing and the subsequent good analysis.

    My own sense is that the old left and right wing labels don’t apply on Waiheke. After about two years, regardless of ones national politics, Love Waiheke becomes the primary partisan theme. No matter what ones offshore politics, it is the character, beauty, community and essence of the island that captures people, and protection of that is what they look for in candidates.

    On all three foreshore issues of the day, the A-Team seemed to be offsides with the mood of the populace. Why? The council officers load the elected local board with issues in massive notebooks that then become the subject matter for the Local Board. The A-Team was undoubtedly good at navigating the officers’ waters, but those are often seen as alien to folks who live on the island. The foreshore issues were not officers’ priorities, thus the last local board did not take the advocacy role the populace was expecting.

    During my presentation to the Royal Commission on the Supercity, I got into a fascinating conversation with the Commission’s Chair Peter Salmon about the apparent absence of checks and balances in NZ governance. He agreed, but unfortunately except for some additional powers for the Mayor, local checks and balances did not make it into the enabling legislation.

    The problem with the way Local Boards are structured is that they appear to be democratic representatives of the electorate, but in fact their roles are tightly prescribed, in essence to be there to give approval to officer-driven agendas within a very limited sphere of influence. If one plays the game, the officers use their discretion (which is considerable) to help the elected representatives get points on the board. If not, they can cut off the flow of background information and make accomplishing anything very difficult. I know, I’ve seen it in action under the prior City Council. The problem is not the personnel, it’s the structure that shapes how the people behave.

    The A-Team, lead by Faye, who has been in the game a long time, played within the rules, played the officers’ game, and this appeared to the electorate as non-responsive.

    The challenge for the Essentially Waiheke team will be to press for fundamental structural changes to implement real democratic engagement in governance, or resort to the old Bruce Bisset style of politics, in which he browbeat the officers into tears. I favour the former, and given the strong mandate of the election results, I think they have a chance to actually accomplish it.

    It promises to be a very interesting three years, but will require the four new members get up to speed very rapidly. The undercurrents of real council governance and management may be hard to see, but they are strong and can be dangerous to navigate.



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