Mandates and Rates

Please note that this was written in 2008, in the 2007-2010 term of the Waimakariri District Council.

Politicians often claim a “mandate” to carry out policies.  This is easier to do if there are parties, as in general elections and local elections in some of our cities, because in those cases there are groups of candidates who can announce a platform.  If enough of them get elected, they can carry out that platform. 

In a district like Waimakariri, it becomes a bit more problematic. With one exception (1998), there have been no groupings of candidates proclaimed.  So what about individual councillors? 

For a start, if an elected councillor did not get half the voters in their ward voting for them, they can claim no mandate at all.  There are three such councillors on the current council.  Legitimately elected, yes, but authorised by the electors to do anything? – hardly, when they had more voters voting against them than for them.  Of the three, two stood on a rates platform, one didn’t. 

That leaves the mayor and seven councillors who got more than half the voters voting for them.  Of these, four stood on some sort of rates platform and four didn’t.  The latter four, of course, all preached prudence, but that is quite different from a “no increase” platform. So what sort of “mandate” does the council as a whole have, with four on one side and four on the other -and all eight knowing that they have the support of more than half the voters? 

The situation is more complicated when we look at the candidates who didn’t get elected, examine their platforms and look at the votes they got.   

In the Oxford-Eyre Ward, for instance, there were four candidates for the two places, none of whom stood on a rates platform.  In that ward, only the mayor campaigned on a rates platform and he, while “winning” in that ward, nevertheless got less than half the vote. 

In the Woodend-Ashley Ward there were only three candidates, and of the two who campaigned on rates, one was successful, one wasn’t (and the latter was comfortably defeated by a candidate who didn’t campaign on rates). 

The result in the Kaiapoi Ward was more clear-cut, with two rates-issue candidates getting more than half of the voters’ support. When one includes the three unsuccessful candidates and the councillor who was supported by fewer than half the voters, candidates who made an issue of rates gained more votes than those who didn’t.

The Rangiora Ward was a real lolly-scramble with twelve candidates for three places.  This meant that it was unlikely that anyone would get half the voters voting for them, although one just managed it.  The other two of the top three were both well off the half-way mark.  The mayor (in the mayoral race) did get more than half the votes, but still fewer than the leader amongst the Council candidates.  Looking at official candidate statements and what was said in the newspapers, only three or four Rangiora candidates campaigned on rates.  Their combined total vote came nowhere near the combined total vote of the other eight or nine.   So who has a mandate from Rangiora Ward voters?  I could claim one, but I don’t.  All I know is what I campaigned on – see the extract from my election leaflet by clicking on the link at the right.  

In the end, I don’t have a clue as to what was going through the minds of the great majority of voters as they ticked the boxes – and nor do any of my council colleagues. 

Some councillors made promises in the election campaign and naturally they will feel bound by those promises.  If, however, they feel bound by a promise to keep rates to a certain level and they use that as a reason for not funding, say, a new water source for Oxford township (to be paid for by Oxford alone), that gives rise to more questions.  What opportunity have Oxford voters had to accept or reject that election promise?  Did any candidate for the Oxford-Eyre Ward campaign against that water source?  The answer to the second question is no. 

When a politician claims a mandate, examine the assertion carefully!     

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