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?”