Across the four governing bodies covered by BayBuzz — Hastings Council, Napier Council, Regional Council and District Health Board — the voting results were, not surprisingly, an endorsement of the power of incumbency. That — followed by the fierce resistance to personal accountability — is the main story of this election.

From those four bodies, only 6 incumbents out of 44 officeholders chose not to seek re-election. Of the 38 who did seek re-election, only 2 were defeated.

In my own favorite sandbox, the Regional Council, every incumbent ran and no incumbent was defeated.

At first glance, a vote for incumbents is often confused with a vote for the status quo. But that interpretation can be a bit simplistic. Looking more closely, for example at the Hastings constituency of the Regional Council, the “old boy” club of von Dadelszen, Rose and McGregor won 30,153 ticks. An alternative trio, one incumbent and two challengers — Remmerswaal, Douglas and Belford  — who share similar views on the environment that differ markedly from the old crew,  won 28,308 ticks.

Those 1,845 ticks separating the two “camps” (out of nearly 60,000 votes cast) amount to a world of difference in the direction the Regional Council will now take!

[And indeed the biggest gainer of votes (over 2007) of all the incumbents was Liz Remmerswaal, the “purest” environmentalist of the HBRC lot … the kind Ewan McGregor likes to call ‘environmental fundamentalists’. She received 3,352 more votes in 2010 than in 2007. If that isn’t an endorsement of staunch, “heart on your sleeve” environmentalism, what is it?!]

Without question, there are two hugely different voting blocks out there in the Hastings constituency when it comes to how the Regional Council should pursue its mission. They are quite evenly matched at present. But, unfortunately, elections are “winner take all” and consequently what Hawke’s Bay will get for the next three years from the HBRC is three more years of faint-hearted stewardship of our environment and stale thinking about regional economic development.

Turning to other bodies …

Hastings Council — the big gainers here in terms of incumbents adding to their previous margins were Kevin Watkins, Wayne Bradshaw, and Henare O’Keefe. HDC will see the most new blood, with Sandra Hazlehurst, Simon Nixon, John Roil, Jacoby Poulain, Ru Collin and Scott Henderson joining the table. With some of these newbies, the verdict must be awaited as to whether fresh blood translates into fresh or independent perspective.

Contrary to media reports, Lawrence Yule slid backwards a bit from 2007, from winning 55.2% of the vote in 2007 to a slightly less 53.8% in 2010. If I had delivered an Opera House, half a sports park, a few million dollars in last-minute cycling and walking funds, closed the deal on a new big box complex in the CBD, and bit back at vicious dogs, I’d be rather disappointed that the voters didn’t give me a stronger mandate for my last term in office! But as with the Regional Council outcome, there seems to be a fairly entrenched opposition to the mayor’s regime, capable of delivering 46.2% of the vote against a very accomplished politician.

Napier Council — the Queen still reigns, although now with a ‘mere’ 75% of the vote, down nearly ten-points from 2007. And no incumbent Councillor was defeated.

Personally, I’m pinning all my hopes — in terms of averting sheer boredom for BayBuzz over the next three years — on two factors. One, the Michelle Pyke/Maxine Boag duo gaining some traction with a “social conscience” agenda for the city. And two, the jockeying (rumblings already) for a successor to the Queen, who — once again — has said this campaign will be her last. I suspect one candidate will emerge from the councillor ranks who wants simply to carry Barbara’s torch forward, while outsiders will be promising some new thinking (and perhaps a new Chief Executive).

District Health Board — well, they’re now elected again, with the able Kevin Atkinson once more the top vote-getter. Only one new face here, Kirsten Wise. Nothing but huge challenges ahead for this elected group … and the handful of appointees the Health Minister will now add to the mix. But first, the big decision to be made is who will chair the DHB. By any rationale, the leadership post should go to Kevin Atkinson … it’s now up to the Bay’s National MPs to secure that result for the people of Hawke’s Bay.

That’s my take on what’s just happened.

Oh, and most of the Bay’s eligible voters slept through the whole thing. Apparently for them, either Hawke’s Bay is gliding blissfully toward paradise on earth, or, we’re doomed no matter who is steering the ship. Either way, they consider voting irrelevant.

Next time, I’ll turn to “now what?”

Tom Belford

Join the Conversation


  1. Even after the election you are still treating the population of HB as being to ‘thick’ for our own good and boring for good measure – how can you stand it? I contemplated on Sunday as to why the new blood that HB desparately needs according to you to survive did not eventuate even with the naked politicing from Bay Buzz telling us every five minutes what we should think and who we should vote for? And I came to a couple of conclusions.
    1. NZer’s are team players who do respect the work others put in and when people play the man and not the ball that person is dog tucker.
    2. We respect proven community minded people
    3. We respect and trust people and their families who we have long relationships with and we are not swayed easily by people we think have an ulterior motive

    So that’s how I think we kiwis are which is very different to how say an American might think BUT America is hardly the shining beacon of politics so maybe us silly kiwis will continue to hold fast to our uncorrupted form of politics and if sticking with the people who will continue to work hard and do what they believe is the best thing then so be it. Congratulations to the successful candidates I voted for pretty much all of you so how silly am I then?

  2. I’m not sure that by any rationale Kevin Atkinson should be chair of the DHB. Competent, successful and ambitious he may be, and with the backing of both mayors, one might be inclined to think he should be a shoe-in. My view is that, as chairman, he let relations deteriorate to such a state within the DHB that the Board was sacked. Now a lot of that may have been politics – but when you are elected to the DHB (and more especially Chairman) that’s the game you play. It would be hard to imagine Sir John Anderson, if he had been the elected chair, allowing relations to degenerate to the same level. “My way or the highway” (an attribute you constantly ascribe to “Napier’s Queen”) can equally be applied to Kevin Atkinson. Frankly, I’d rather see a Government appointee elected chair this time around so that all participants in our Hawke’s Bay Health system remain in unison.

  3. Going by the comments of Evans and Pierse, you’d think that the results in Hawkes Bay are nothing more than the peasent population happily tugging the old forlock to the blue blooded ruling class.
    As you’ve made the point Tom, we live in a democracy and it is a first past the post system, winner takes all be it by a one or one hundred vote majority.
    What is disappointing is that these two morons somehow make out that Aotearoa’s form of democracy is superior than ‘Americas’ and that as a naughty little import from that country you have no right to comment! Whilst I’ve never liked the American ‘two Party’ state system (tonge firmly in cheek), it is at the end of the date, simply different.
    I suppose however that given the racist comments by Paul Henry, followed by the insulting comments by our own local half-wit Michael Laws, that certain inbreaded folk prefer to denounce you because of your birth place.
    I for one support your efforts and believe that BayBuzz has added significantly to the political debate; I’m also grateful that as a nation of immigrants, that like many of us you are actually taking part in what is now your community, just as it is anyone else’s.
    But be careful Tom, I hear through the underground that Evans and Pierse are planning a bit of a ‘Dawn Raid’ in Havelock North, clearly they are regreting the passing of Muldoon!

  4. There isn't a shred of evidence that the results we got wouldn't have been extrapolated into exactly the same results had 100% of eligible voters exercised their constitutional rights & got off their collective arses to polling booths/post boxes.

    Yes, some changes & new faces would have been good; but that's simply not what HB wanted. The only concern now is when America doesn't get the democratic result they wanted, invasions usually follow. Better keep an eye out for aircraft carriers off Kidnappers!!

  5. be nice to see some feedback herein on my suggestion (per last Mon’s HBT column) that we move to compulsory voting for local elections (as in Oz). personally i think it would the raise the bar in a variety of ways – engagement, accountability, transparency, efficiency, equity. comment?

  6. Unsure Dean how you turned what Steve Evans or I said into “Hawkes Bay are nothing more than the peasent population happily tugging the old forlock to the blue blooded ruling class” really interesting jump to say the least, what kind of life experience have you had it must have been terrible thus far – speaking of immigrants are your ancestors originally from England? Obviously your view definitely not mine. I don’t, as I’m sure the majority of people in Hawkes Bay, have any type of ‘peasant population’ thinking – totally the reverse. “Inbred” was also interesting no inbreeding in my whakapapa sorry. And let’s be grown ups here Tom is a big boy and has had open season on everyone else for a few months and I’m sure he can take it that’s what Bay Buzz is all about? ?My point was that we are not stupid and we will make our own decisions – it’s called democracy?
    America seemed a good example but if you would like to think on China, Fiji or India feel free? We live in a wonderful place/country so lets be grateful and get on with living a positive life – being negative and slagging off people from a distance gives you wrinkles, if you want to have a go at someone at least do it to their face ( I think that might be another kiwi thing?) It seems that a big part of the population, at least in Hawke’s Bay agree as they demonstrated at the polls. Have a nice day – give a stranger a random hug – better yet find a “blue blooded ruling class” type person and hug them it might really help you to move on. PS: Don’t call people “morons” & “half wits” it’s not nice.

  7. I’m very happy to blow Anne’s trumpet for her.

    She’s a tireless worker on behalf of the community and I’ve heard nothing but praise for her work with at-risk youth. At Council meetings, although not always in agreement, she was always clear and well researched in her contribution to debate. While others snoozed, or contributed nonsense, she was alert and on to it.

    It’s a great loss to HDC and the electorate she was not re-elected.

    3 years passes quickly, and I hope Anne runs again with the hard learned lesson that if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it’s likely anyone else will do it for you.

    Kia kaha Anne

  8. Bruce Bisset: Declining to vote is not only a democratic right, it can also be a conscious political choice. Simply assuming it is due to laziness or ignorance or lack of engagement is arrogant to say the least. Those who don’t vote are also making a political statement: Some are saying the system is hopelessly corrupted and will remain the plaything of a select few regardless of what they do. Whether this is true or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that people feel this way. Others are saying that the election process and the candidates who stood failed to inspire them enough to make them want to vote for anyone. This is a failing of the process and the candidates, not the voters.

    Labour got the boot in the last election because people were fed up with nannies. They didn’t want someone else telling them what was good for them. They didn’t want authorities legislating the types of light bulbs or shower heads they were allowed to use. The answer of progressive types to social issues always seems to be to pass another law requiring this or forbidding that. Fining someone for not voting is the same as telling them they are too stupid to make their own decisions. A lot of what you write makes sense. This does not. All those people who didn’t vote also denied the council and mayor a mandate. It’s pretty hard to claim you have overwhelming support for your policies when only around 30% or less of eligible voters have actually endorsed you. Non-voters make a powerful statement by their (lack of) action and your response to this is uncharacteristically simple-minded.

    You asked for feedback/comment. I hope I have satisfied your request.

  9. I guess it is a case of ‘better the devil (or the devils name you know) than the devil you don’t’.

    This was my first time standing for an elected board, and I admit it was pretty ballsy going for a seat on the HBDHB. Although, I was not successful I still had over 3000 voters believe that I could do the job. This election has giving me insight into the campaign world, and more confidence to pursue other career goals I have within the health sector.

    All that positive stuff put aside, I believe some of the older aged DHB incumbents could have stood down from the elections, put themselves forward for an appointed seat (campaigning at a political level), thus allowing for more fresh blood to enter the team

  10. While the "power of incumbancy" didn't work for me, I see the reason for that as very different to the above comments. As a first term Councillor I worked very hard and took on a huge workload by choice. I got into a wide range of areas including the Joint Wastewater Committee, Heritage Trails, HB Trust for the Elderly, Hastings City marketing, Creative Hastings, HDC Cycling Strategy, Joint Maori Committee, Safe Hastings Advisory Committee, Crime Prevention Governance Group, HB Cultural Trust and others. I trained to become a Commissioner and sat on RMA hearings and Council Plan Changes. When not attending meetings I was active in the community attending events, networking groups and seeking out comments for upcoming agenda items. I also worked part-time with at-risk youth and families as I had done for the eight years prior to being elected to council. I knew this community very well and actively contributed on behalf of residents without any personal agenda other than to "make a difference". I had one of the highest attendance records for meetings and workshops and took the Annual Plan process each year very seriously (unlike some re-elected Councillors who chose to take their overseas holidays each year during this time!) However, my downfall was working harder at making a difference than I did at promoting myself. I was an excellent Councillor and community representative but a lousy politician! I am sure there are many dedicated people out in the community such as myself who would fit this same description. Many people have said I should stand next election and it is something I will consider, however as I don't believe in 'blowing my own trumpet' I am not sure if the result would be much different to this election. I would welcome feedback. Regards, Anne

  11. Well poor old Adrienne seemed a litte too sensitive about some home truths; the reality is that Adrienne and her ilk are the type of people who would smuggly encourage such whispering campaigns as those directed against Tom, here in Whanganui we had exactly the same thing, monied ‘blue blood’ families who happily supported some pretty nasty rumours against our now Mayor Elect.
    Fortunately the people saw through such a ruse and we now have achieved a significant change, the people of Hawkes Bay will eventually come to that same conclusion. But one should never underestimate the power of the Hawkes Bay old boys network and the resources they can bring to bear (having served nine years on the Hastings District Council, I am well aware of how power is distributed and it certainly isn’t on the naieve concept of ‘one man/woman, one vote’).
    As for being ‘nice’ as Adrienne implores me to be; Adrienne politics is not a ‘nice’ place to be when you are seeking to bring about significant political and social change, respectfully suggest you take up needle craft.

  12. Adrienne Pierce appears to be part of the problem -not part of the solution. I agree with Tom & don't give a tinkers toss where he came from.

  13. John Hawkes: i didn't say anything about laziness or ignorance, those are your words – though i readily admit they play a part. then you argue my case by agreeing with me that less than half of half voting hardly constitutes a mandate – yet it's taken as one.

    so frankly, no, i don't see not voting as any sort of "statement", because it has absolutely no point and even less effect. my suggestion was/is intended to "correct" that – surely a positive, though yes, the method is debatable.

    if you can suggest a better way of engaging people to care about and vote for local government, by all means let's hear it. after 20-odd years in and around local politics i've heard most of em – surprise me. but please don't whimp out with systemic failure as an excuse – because that's exactly what needs correcting!

  14. I wasn't going to continue with this but it's just to hard to resist because it's just too amusing. Dean I wish I had time for needle craft but I'm saving the world in my own way. Actually I am from a blue blood family of Ngati Maniapoto (King Country) with ancestry back to the Tainui canoe, but I don't like to brag about it. I am also a new immigrant to Hawke's Bay and live in Havelock North, have done so for the past 12 or so years, and now that you have alerted me I am watching out for the local blue bloods as it could provide me with a good networking opportunity. As a business owner in Hawke's Bay for the past 18 years I have had no problem with a 'boys network' although to be fair I have been known to seek advice from boy business owners ( because there are just more of them than girls) so are they who you are talking about? As to your comment regarding whispering campaigns let me assure you there is never any danger of my whispering, if I have something to say I take the direct approach. Anyway this is all a bit silly now so we'll see you in 3 years Dean standing for Mayor of Hawke's Bay then you can sort out everything and exile all the blue bloods and the boys network and the nasty whispering people to the Chatham Islands maybe then you can be one of the powerful people. Get my phone number from Tom if you feel the need to yell down the phone at me as no more correspondence will be entered into.

  15. BB: For a poet you don't have much insight into human nature. Coercion just annoys people and results in alphabetical democracy. If you really want to improve voter turnout try putting up a number of fake candidates in the next election and have them loudly advocate outrageous measures aimed at curbing the choices of the unengaged demographic. The prospect of a local tax on unhealthy food or a bylaw banning smoking in the home will have them reaching for their voting papers in no time!

  16. lol. good idea – will you be standing?

    as for the argument: the base is that democracy has been devalued because the masses have been propangandised into believing their vote is worthless, so they don’t participate, thus making true the lie. classic.

    so the idea behind compulsory voting is to re-value democracy.

    all the “beating up people doesn’t work” arguments were trotted out when Oz introduced this system – but after a couple of elections the moaning stopped and people got on with it, because by then they were engaged. in other words, it worked.

  17. Bruce – From what I recall when living in Aussie, people complained bitterly about compulsory voting, spent no more time deciding who to vote for, then went to the polling booth, spoiled their ballot slip to nullify their vote & walked out.

    All sounds a bit Mugabe esque to me. If you don't know who to vote for or can't be bothered, then it's your absolute democratic right to abstain. Did you get the 'propagandised masses' line from Rick in the Young Ones?

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