Standing for Dunedin City Council

I’ve decided to stand for Dunedin City Council – see my announcement.

I wear a number of political hats – promoting better democracy, cross party solutions, and more recently promoting UnitedFuture as I see a need for a reliable small centre party.

One of the first hats I put on when deciding to get involved in politics was to get better and more effective political representation for Dunedin and the South. It was this passion that led to me standing for Dunedin North in the last election, and I campaigned on better democracy for Dunedin.

Over the past two years I’ve learnt more about politics, about how to communicate and how to lobby. I’ve made a number of contacts nationally.

Recent concerns raised about job losses in Dunedin highlighted a problem for the city – it seems to be a low priority for central government. the importance of Dunedin is seen as diminished and disregarded by Wellington. Like other regions the South feels neglected.

My first priority is listening to the people and looking for the best ways to represent these people. I will set up systems of communication via social media and public meetings. This always has been my primary interest in politics.

Should I become a city councillor my second priority will be working hard for the people of Dunedin – not just for a vocal minority but for the good of the majority.

And thirdly I will use my experience and contacts in national politics to push central government hard for better regional policies. Auckland is very important to New Zealand, but so are the regions, which feed Auckland with a lot of resources and people. Big cities and regions should not compete, they are different, with different strengths.  If both cities and the regions are strong we will have a stronger country.

I may comment occasionally here on the Dunedin election and Dunedin issues but most of that will be in Your Dunedin.

This won’t affect what I do here and what I’m doing with UnitedFuture, which are separate projects. I’ll be standing as an independent candidate. Peter Dunne has approved (which is nice, but it was solely my decision). And Judy Turner, ex United Future MP and ex party president, and now deputy mayor of Whakatane, has encouraged me to stand.

I believe I can make a positive and significant contribution to Dunedin City and the South by connecting the people, the city and the country.

Huge challenge for a South party

It would be a huge challenge for Ian Taylor’s call to start a south of the Waitaki political party to succeed.

Call for South to form own party

Call for South to form own partyDunedin needs to ”stand up” to government cuts, and a new political party giving a voice to the South could be just the ticket, businessman Ian Taylor says.

Mr Taylor told the ODT public dissatisfaction meant any new party could snap up seats in Dunedin, Southland and Waitaki and ”bowl in” to Parliament.

It would take a massive effort and a significant change in voter habits to succeed. A ”bowl in” to Parliament is more likely to be bowled over by the reality of history and the numbers.

It would be just about impossible for a regional party to make the MMP threshold of 5%, that would need (based on last election voting numbers) about 112,000 party votes. Last election other party votes:

  • NZ First 147,544 (6.59%)
  • Conservative Party 59,237 (2.65%)
  • Maori Party 31,982 (1.43%)

The most party votes south of the Waitaki were from National:

Clutha Southland 20,020
Dunedin North 9,707
Dunedin South 21,309
Invercargill 16,140
Waitaki 21,309
TOTAL 88,485

The means making the 5% threshold would be an enormous, unattainable goal. So a southern party would have to win electorate seats.

Under MMP no party has won an electorate seat without already having had a presence in Parliament.

And this has been tried before. The Dunedin based NZ South Island Party contested the election in 1999.

The party won no seats in 1999, with just 0.14% of the vote or 2,622 votes in total across the whole country. Its highest percentage of the party vote in any seat was 1.5%, although one of their candidates received over 800 votes (2.6% of the votes cast in that electorate).

Not very encouraging.

I tried a “vote local” campaign when I stood for Dunedin North in 2011 and apart from a very small amount of encouragement that approach was virtually ignored.

It’s possible a high profile candidate could win a seat – it would be difficult, it would be unprecedented, but anything is possible. Which seat?

Clutha Southland is emphatically Bill English’s seat, Invercargill is strongly National, as is Waitaki.

No one but Labour has come close to winning Dunedin North since Richard Walls surprised for National in 1975, and the seat is also likely to be contested by a current Cabinet Minister (Michael Woodhouse) and a Green Party leader (Metiria Turei).

Dunedin South is the most vulnerable, currently held by Labour’s Clare Curran but she is not the most popular of MPs. She got 16,844 votes in 2011 but, while she might struggle to hold that next year the electorate has been owned by Labour.

What could one southern MP achieve? Taylor muses:

Once there, it could be a voice for regional development in the corridors of power.

”Now is the time to take our future in our own hands and do something about it … [to] come together and force the politicians to take notice. No-one else will.

”It is up to us to stand up and be counted and the best way to do that is from the inside,” he said.

How much does lone MP Brendan Horan achieve?

Someone with a high local profile who might pull of a shock win would find the going very tough in Wellington if they don’t have any experience or an established network of influence.

This term single MPs can have influence through their vote, especially Peter Dunne – but he has nearly 30 years of experience in the wheeling and dealing in Parliament.

But if the coalition majority is not wafer thin then a single vote carries very little weight.

Especially one vote from a distant region. That vote would have to compete with other regional interests as well as much larger metropolitan areas, especially Auckland.

A massive effort with a very popular candidate may cause an upset and win one seat. Two would be much more difficult, much more unlikely, and even two votes amongst 120 would struggle to be effective.

It would take substantial funds, an extraordinary candidate, and it would be eighteen months before a 1/120 vote could try to make a difference, if they succeeded.

It is also worth noting Colin Craig’s result last election. He spent more than $1.5 million and got 8031 votes in Rodney, losing to National’s Mark Mitchell (a rooky candidate) on 20,253.

The key to having influence in politics is understanding what works. So far, regional parties haven’t.

But it’s worth having a discussion about what might work.

 

Call for South to form own party

Ian Taylor has suggested a political party for the south. This approach has never worked yet – and there is a ready made party available right now, that could have an influence right now.

Call for South to form own party

Call for South to form own partyDunedin needs to ”stand up” to government cuts, and a new political party giving a voice to the South could be just the ticket, businessman Ian Taylor says.

Mr Taylor told the ODT public dissatisfaction meant any new party could snap up seats in Dunedin, Southland and Waitaki and ”bowl in” to Parliament.

Once there, it could be a voice for regional development in the corridors of power.

”Now is the time to take our future in our own hands and do something about it … [to] come together and force the politicians to take notice. No-one else will.

”It is up to us to stand up and be counted and the best way to do that is from the inside,” he said.

The best way is to use existing means – far quicker and simpler, and far more chance of success.

I have been researching and testing ideas for getting better local political representation for five years. I stood in the last election to test some ideas as a part of this research.

Starting new parties is notoriously difficult. Especially special interest and regional parties. They haven’t succeeded yet.

I believe there is a ready made solution that is far more likely to succeed. Use an existing party that has already indicated it will strongly support regions. Much of what is required is already in place.

I was going to stand in the 2011 election as an independent until United Future asked me to stand for them, specifically because they liked my regional approach. The party was not in a strong position then.

Right now is an ideal time for regional interests to become a major influence in United Future.

This approach has a much higher chance of success than starting a new party. And it could be started and effective almost immediately.