On 21 September, Hawke’s Bay Today published the following letter to the editor from Mark von Dadelszen, husband of Regional Councillor and candidate Eileen von Dadelszen. The next day, HBT graciously published my response to Team von Dadelszen, reproduced below. Since many BayBuzz readers decline to read HBT, here is the exchange.

From Mark von Dadelszen:

I’m uniquely placed, as the current spouse of a regional councillor and current candidate, to observe the current regional council election campaign and the effect of the abuse that is an unpleasant feature of it.

I know the long-standing contributions my wife has made to our region. I know her passion for the work of the regional council.

The invective designed to bring candidates into hatred, ridicule and contempt is unpleasant, ill-informed and ultimately destructive.

Why self-proclaimed ‘environmentalists’ believe they have the right to attack the personal integrity and ability of some candidates puzzles and saddens me. It is akin to the vandalism of election signs – it is negative and immature.

The fact is that regional council resource management plans and decisions must ultimately be able to withstand scrutiny by the Environment Court. Current critics of regional council decisions and decision-makers fail to take or win their arguments in the Environment Court – why? They avoid logical discussion of the issues, and instead attack the community’s elected representatives personally – why? They fail to recognize positive improvements in environmental care – why?

Given this negativity, why would anyone seek election when they are selectively subject to contemptible personal attacks?

I believe that candidates with integrity have confidence in the electorate to elect qualified people who have a track record of making positive contributions to the community.

Personally, I do not believe our community appreciates candidates or their fellow-travellers who attack the players rather than the ball.”

Response from Tom Belford:

[My wife Brooks would have preferred to speak out in my defense. But whereas there might be some chivalry perceived in husband Mark attacking on behalf of his damsel in distress, I feared that asking my spouse to do the heavy lifting would cast me as an unmanly wuss.]

“In response to Mark von Dadelszen’s campaign lament yesterday on behalf of his wife, candidate Eileen, titled Attacking the player not the ball.

Sorry Mark, until such time as we have local parties or tickets, local body elections are about individual candidates and their capabilities. And in the case of incumbents like Eileen, their performance on the job. In other words, playing the (wo)man. There is no other basis on which voters can or should make their judgments. Bloodlines, mere longevity and devotion to duty might be grounds enough for queens, but not for those seeking elective office.

Candidates who can’t bear the heat of public scrutiny should get out of the democratic kitchen. Challenging the judgment, performance and vision of one’s competitors for office is a far cry from any “negativity” and “contemptible personal attacks” about which you mightily complain, but fail to enlighten us as to specifics or even to identify a culprit …other than by innuendo.

As for me, it’s simple. I’m not standing for office because of some vague sense of ideological mission, duty to the RMA, or entitlement. If I didn’t think I could contribute more — and better represent the values I believe the voters hold dearest — than the specific individuals I hope to defeat, I wouldn’t trouble them or myself by entering the race.

So yes indeed, despite being called by your crowd a ‘recent American immigrant’ … ‘the Belford aberration’ … ‘draft dodger’ … ‘environmental fundamentalist’ … and my personal favourite, an ‘idealistic Johnny Come Lately’, I welcome the heat and plead guilty to playing ‘the man’, with enthusiasm.”

Tom Belford

P.S. Have you read the BayBuzz Digest Election Special Edition? You can download PDF version here.

Join the Conversation


  1. Go Tom! How sad am I that, living in Napier, I don't get the opportunity to vote for you!

    Everything you have to say rings true and – how do I get to know what various contenders think of the "holding company" proposed by HBRC's Alan Dick and CEO Andrew Neuman????? Loved your comment about not beating up VHB any longer – boy! do I have some inside stories and they do not make the guys mentioned above look very good!

    Pauline Elliott

  2. Likewise living inNapier i will not get the chance to vote for you Tom, but as the HBRC has always seemed akin to a 'Comfy Gentlemens Club' new blood would be welcome. Good Luck Tom!

    PS. lose that AGW view – it will do no favours to HB in the long run.

  3. Kia ora

    To Tom Belford

    Kia kaha kia maia kia manawanui

    Ma te atua hei awhina, a, hei manaaki i a koe i nga wa katoa.

    Good luck in the campaign

  4. I'm sure current HBRC represenatives are genuine people who have tried to do a good job. They have dropped the ball in a few area though.

    It's a small area matter the HBRC but Venture HB is a good example. They lost $378,000 more than it had budgeted in their last year. Either Councillor's didn't know what was happening in this 'automomous business unit' or they did nothing about it. Either way it's time to hold them to account. The buck doesn't stop with the 'advisory board' over who I have no say. The ever increasing list of short term CEO's at Venture HB also indicates a dysfunctional organisation in need of a major shake up.

    I can only influence that through this little voting paper I hold…and there appears to be some pretty good candidates on offer.

  5. Mark -would you like a hand to get the toys back in your cot?

    In other words nothing you said is worth responding to.

    It really is time for a change!

  6. Poor Tom, you must have felt quite put out by Mark’s finger wagging, I mean how dear you challenge the Bay’s inbred ruling classes!
    If the people of Hawkes Bay finally acknowledge that the disasterous legacy left to them by the current crop of Hawkes Bay Regional Councillors is unacceptable in a modern first world country, then they will dispatch with them and elect representatives worthy of the title.
    Von D needs to go, not only as a Regional Councillor but also her husband as the Hastings District Council’s legal representative.
    Maybe Mark’s attack was little more than a reaction to his biting a little too hard on his silver spoon.

  7. "Fellow-travellers"? He actually used the expression "fellow-travellers"?

    Sorry Senator McCarthy, but I'm with Tom's Edward R Murrow on this one. The region desperately needs fresh blood and ideas. Take a break from the '50's and join us in the 21st century before your allusions get any worse. What next? A Red in the Shed, a pinko at the sinko, a Cat in the Hat, or a Lion and a Witch in the Wardrobe?

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