Devonport Ignored By Most Election Candidates

Posted by on Sep 30, 2010 | 2 Comments


Even if it got mangled in the delivery and forgotten in the manifesto,  George W Bush knew to tailor the message to the audience. So it was with some consternation that I noted at the “Meet The Candidates” event last night, a disturbing split that separated the candidates.

The first candidates to speak were those competing for the six crucial positions on the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board. Those who attended and spoke were Ken McKay, Wenda Morton,  Kevin Schwass, Chris Darby, Mike Cohen, Ivan Dunn, Gay Richards, Dianne Hale, Joseph Bergin, Fay Freeman, Anthony Wirral and Jan O’Connor (in that order). Each had three and a half minutes to pitch to the crowd of about 50, mainly older residents.

The first and most obvious takeaway from this session was this; we are ludicrously lucky to have candidates of the highest quality representing us, as Devonport.

Chris Darby, Dianne Hale and Mike Cohen – together with Grant Gillon – are in a league of their own. Passionate, smart, experienced and knowledegable, they were by far the strongest candidates on show.

Having said that, a couple of other candidates also stood out: Gay Richards, the relatively inexperienced but engaging Joseph Bergin and Wenda Morton;  Joe the 18-year old young Nat, and Wenda, the successful community activist.

The others ALL fell at the first, simplest, lowest and most obvious hurdle. When pitching to an audience of people from Devonport – hey, why not talk about your vision  / plans / feelings / concerns regarding er, Devonport? and if you can’t / won’t do that, then maybe at least mention the name in your speech!

Fay Freeman listens to one of the other candidates

Fay Freeman listens to one of the other candidates

All we got was a monologue of prior experience, previous accomplishments and what they wouldn’t do. Some managed to remember to say nice soft things like “community” and “consultation”, but they were   – without exception – appallingly bad at demonstrating that they had any interest or vision in Devonport  – or “down here” as some referred to it – whatsoever! You would have thought that in preparation for their speech, they might have considered the possibility of there being some nervousness among Devonportians regarding the preservation of Devonport’s identity in this new super structure. Apparently not.

Now I’m aware – given the current uncertainty around the transition process from councils to super city – that it is difficult for candidates to speak in detail about their plans. Fair enough. I’m also aware that a couple of the candidates have been around for so long, they may have forgotten that some voters don’t actually know them.  But that doesn’t provide an excuse for an utter absence of discussion about Devonport.

Some even had the temerity to go on to suggest candidates from other areas could represent areas other than those in which they lived. It would be great to believe it, but there was no evidence that this was the case at all. What really got my goat was one of the last speakers had the gall to say; “Well, I’ve heard a lot of Devonport, Devonport, Devonport, but I represent……” Er, what? Perhaps you’d like to talk to Devonport residents about Eketahuna instead?

It was pretty much the same picture for the six candidates for the two North Shore ward positions I saw speak. They were Ann  Hartley, Jan O’Connor, Joel Cayford, Grant Gillon, Ken McKay and George Wood.

About fifty residents attended the meeting

About fifty residents attended the meeting

Chris Darby was again the stand-out. Grant Gillon and Joel Cayford were eloquent and impressive, but even they seemed to think they were pitching to an audience who would be quite happy to be represented as part of an abstract “North Shore community.”

The job is unquestionably one that involves representing the North Shore, and that seemed to be the pitch. Last time I looked, the Shore was made up of suburbs and communities.

So, the bottom line is this; one can assume from the meeting tonight that Devonport-based candidates are clearly competent and care about Devonport, most of those from outside do not, and what’s worse, cannot even bothered to pay us lip service. Which means either they’re stupid or complacent, or they think we’re stupid or complacent.

Don’t say you haven’t been warned. If you care about Devonport, you NEED to vote, and you need to vote for the right candidates. Because there are very clearly the right candidates for Devonport, and a bunch who are the wrong candidates for Devonport.

To assist you in this exercise, the Speculator will be publishing a “Dummies Guide To The Elections.” Stay tuned.


  1. linda blincko says:

    There were 100 people, including candidates, at the meeting on the 29th September, which was organised by the Depot and Community House. We have been organising such meetings for over 20 years (both local and national elections)and the audience is generally the same every time, which means it’s an aging audience, one committed to their community and one which recognises the importance of taking part in the democratic process in order to ensure that the community and its valued assets are maintained. I wonder where the under 50’s are, and the new population of locals who have moved here because they love the community Devonport is. These are some of the most important local body elections to date and local councillors and local board members will need to have a strong understanding of community and the capacity to represent the interests of their local communities.
    People really do need to exercise their right to vote if they value their community.

  2. GB says:

    Good meeting content, but pity there wasn’t more people from Devonport and surrounding areas turning out for it.

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