The call arrived, the result although provisional was final, you were unsuccessful in both counts.

POW! The hammer drops and the weight of defeat and a feeling of being ignored descends, down into an abyss of despair and self-sorrow. The taste of defeat so bitter. Perhaps my expectations exceeded my abilities. Or perhaps I could have done more. Questions which found a space in my brain to occupy during the day’s self pity.

Then, just as suddenly as it arrived, by Monday morning it had been expunged from my conscious mind into the oblivion of yesterday. A shower, shave, fresh clothes and a good feed and I am back on the horse ready for riding again. There is still so much that needs fixing, and I am the carpenter.

However, as a post analysis of the voting turnout, it has to be said yet again, it was poor. Less than 50% turnout has got to be seen as a failure for democracy. It was one of the reasons we all voted to move from FPP to MMP. Minority representation was seen as undemocratic or at least acting against the best interests of the majority. There is no acknowledgement that the mandate was fickle, that it does not represent the majority. Is there a mandate? The 2010 result is similar to 2007 and 2004. Nothing has been done to improve voter turnout.

Instead I hear Maori are blamed because they don’t vote. This appears to have some credibility and needs some attention. However, with 25,000 voters not exercising their right to vote, it cannot be said that 25,000 are Maori. Common sense would tell us all that there is dissatisfaction among the non-Maori population as well. So let’s dispense with this red herring. Instead let’s acknowledge that there is a fundamental problem with our system and our voters. It is my belief that the problems or solutions are not the same.

First Past the Post should instead read ‘popularity contest’, and in this context, finishing well below the half way mark, it is not even a popular popularity contest. So what should happen?

Fixed term limits on representation was raised prior to the last election by Councillor Bradshaw, and promptly discarded by Hastings District Council on the pretext that it was undemocratic. How can it be undemocratic, if the President of the United States can only serve 2 terms; USA the land of democracy; surely not. Fixed term representation itself will be sufficient to cause voters to be interested. So instead of raising pathetic arguments why it should not happen, why doesn’t the Council look at reasons as to how it can make it happen.

Maori need to show leadership and inspire their people to vote. It is difficult I agree when your history in voting has always been used against you. Voting in the historic context still does not occupy a place of importance because of the way local government and central government have used their voted positions to further and continually disenfranchise Maori with the voting system and the lack of faith they have in the elected people.  Maori have to move on and some have, but not enough. Even in the general elections of MMP, Maori voter turnout has been estimated as being poor.

Change the system. I once agreed that to have Maori-only seats on council was not the best solution to Maori representation. I still think that is the case. However, small authentic representation is still better than no representation at all. So I believe that the question of Maori-only seats needs to be revisited. Couple this with the arrival of Treaty settlements and the need for Maori to register and vote as whanau, hapu or iwi in order to vote for their representation, and we could see an increase in overall voting interest from Maori – because effect has been given to the Treaty of Waitangi and compensation paid for historic errors, legislative disempowerment and an apology for doing these things to Maori.

I can hear the laughter and retorts crying sour grapes, poor loser, move on. Their energy might be better spent on finding ways to increase voter turnout. Leaders need to show courage and not wallow in self-indulgence brought at the expense of apathy. Fix it, not encourage it to continue. Some might say: Ah! The wonderful benefit of hindsight. I might say: Ah! The wonderful benefit of vision.

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