Council hopefuls need to talk and agree


Let the silly season begin. Or perhaps it started once election hoardings were put up, defaced and taken down? I don’t know.

Anyway, a stack of public meetings are arranged – attended mainly, it seems, by those who like watching TV One on Saturday nights (and who, perhaps, read this column) – so we can form a view about who should be on Queenstown’s next council.

I attended Monday night’s iteration at the Queenstown Golf Club, attended by more than 100 people.

It wasn’t much of a spectacle, I’m afraid.

There were bumbled lines, dropped speech notes and, sometimes, the forced delivery of stock lines or catch-phrases.

Jim Boult’s mayoral opponents only briefly jabbed at his record with collapsed building firm Stonewood Homes New Zealand Ltd.

Throwaway lines included Roger Tompkins’ effort that he paid all his bills and Lyal Cocks saying he’d be a fulltime mayor. Pretty limp attempts, really. I put that down to nerves.

Hopefully there’s a much stiffer test at this coming Tuesday’s Chamber of Commerce event at the Memorial Centre.

In saying that, I was delighted to learn more about the candidates – five for mayor and 14 for the six Wakatipu places – especially those with a low public profile.

I wouldn’t put my hand up but I’m glad we’ve got so many people who did.

You could probably put together a clever word cloud rooting out the major themes.

Remarkables-sized words would be PARKING, TRANSPORT, HOUSING and AFFORDABLE, not necessarily in that order.

Oft-repeated words from newbies were leadership, vision and change, while many existing councillors seemed to latch onto the idea of “progress” and “continuity”.

One particularly striking moment came near the end, when mayoral candidate Al Angus – who was trounced by Vanessa van Uden in 2013 – asked the room: “How did that experience work out for you?”

He asked people who were happy with the council’s last three years to put their hand up.

Angus told me later that no one did. Van Uden was in the audience.

Simon Stamers-Smith, a two-term councillor, admitted transport was a “shambles”.

As I said before, most people touched on the same themes, wrapping their sentiment in a cuddly community message. It’s nice to know what people stand for, that they’ll listen, but what’s less obvious is how they’ll do it.

Personally, I think the prospective councillors need to do a very un-Kiwi thing and talk to each other.

Public expectations are extremely high, so if the next group can’t work together they might be hounded out of office before 2019.

Worse, if they don’t get it right on housing, the government might do an ‘ECan’ on them – sack them and appoint commissioners.

That can’t happen. I think it’ll be easier for the public if councillors can get together and hammer out an agreed set of issues.

Parachute under your favourite mayoral candidate, sure.

Or take a full-page ad telling the community their plans.

Let’s take a couple of easy ones:

Ratepayer-funded affordable housing: YES/NO?

Ratepayer-funded public transport: YES/NO?

Ratepayer-funded convention centre: YES/NO?

The answer to these and a few more questions will help people decide who to vote for.

Also, prioritising specific projects. A new parking building is more important than a new headquarters, which is more important than a potential ferry service.

Pick your own path. But pick a path.

Monday’s meeting was high on intention and low on practical solutions (although Tamati Maruera was ballsy enough to offer a few interesting ideas – regulating housing!!??).

The candidates need to clearly tell voters how they intend to tackle these important issues.

The only thing worse than broken promises is no promises at all.