Max Christoffersen has given up voting and has used his column with the Waikato Times to share the sentiment; to encourage others to join him in not voting in the next local elections. I read (both) of his “Drain the Swamp” articles and responded with one of my own. To learn more about where he was coming from I asked to interview him about what he means by “drain the swamp”, what he sees the problems as being and how he thinks we can get out of the mess, for my radio show Kelli from the Tron (airing Friday the 6th January). While I personally don’t feel “not voting” is a valid option for me “we agree that there are major failings with our political system. (While this is a national and international trend – we’re focussing on local politics for now).
Proof of the failure is best shown by a measily 33% of Hamiltonians voting in the local elections in 2016. In fact Hamilton had the lowest turnout of all metro centers in New Zealand and also had the largest decrease in voter turnout from 2013-16. This was at the same time as we had huge public interest in politics on the international stage with Brexit and Trump. Like most media commentators, the Council and Government – I got on the bus which effectively blamed non-voters, accepting the reasons we’d been given which were that people ran out of time, forgot and didn’t know enough about the candidates. These reasons for a low voter turnout bred a string of failed “get out the vote” campaigns. After mulling over the interview in the days and weeks to follow I feel certain that we have the wrong approach and aren’t investigating deep enough. I also feel that good people being voted in to Council, won’t do enough to change it – which is what I’d pinned my hopes on.
His main insight and observation was that it is the systems and infrastructure of local government that has effectively created a system which doesn’t work the way that it should. He highlights the following as areas of concern or failings.
- Governance vs management, in particular conflict between the CE and elected wing.
- Lack of accountability for decisions made. (V8’s and Claudelands examples of these).
- Ward representation
- Legislative framework from central government.
There was no part of that that I could argue with – the sticking point was the action to take. I wonder at what point that central government would intervene – surely 33% is below what could be considered a democratic mandate? It’s something I’ll look further into as part of this exploration. I also wondered what it would take to have the whole system overhauled. Would we lose our right to electing members of our community to advocate for us? But, then think a little more and realise, it’s not happening anyway.
There is a wealth of knowledge, experience and opinion out there so I’m hoping to spend some of this year finding those people and sharing their thoughts with you.
In the interview you hear reference to a book called “Making A Stand: A Mayor’s Own Story” by David Braithwaite – Hamilton’s Mayor from 2001-2004. I have read the book – and drew some of my own conclusions, though have decided to talk about that at a later date.
The interview with Max airs for the first time at 10am on Friday 6th January on FreeFM 89.0.