Go on, do the vote thing

This is a post from your friendly editor Isabella. If you’re like me, you’re putting off voting cos it’s complex and a bit depressing. This post gives you a broad steer, and some top tips. Go on, do the vote thing!


A top tip from all voting advice is: have a broad sense of the future you’d like to see. As a Talk Wellington reader, it’s reasonable to assume you’re probably in favour of more, rather than less equality and sustainability from the places we live. I’ll proceed on the basis that this is true for you!

In local government terms, this means you can look for candidates seeking more, rather than less

  • density done well,
  • people-friendly streets,
  • efficient and effective transport,
  • efficient and effective three-waters infrastructure
  • responsible biodiversity protection

As you start to stare at the voting paper, remember…

Right now, the System is still heavily predisposed against delivering these things.

So in terms of density, streets, transport, and pipes, NZ local democracy being what it is, the eventual council table will have plenty of folk who will be pushing for less change to the status quo. As a Talk Wellington reader trying to decide between a bunch of candidates, all things being equal (ie none of them have any knockout factors like VFF affiliations or a deficiency of civic character), you can feel safe erring on the side of more progressive on density, transport, infrastructure.

Remember that what we want is forward movement in the roughly right directions.

Yes, of course there are loads of issues with things like District Plans, reforms to three waters, SNAs, and Let’s Get Wellington Moving (Talk Wellington has *lots* to say about those issues!) But they’re fundamentally the right big shifts for our cities to be making, and are being improved upon all the time.

Don’t be seduced by candidates who sound really articulate and compelling being negative about these things. It’s easy to highlight the flaws in something, but it’s much harder to work constructively at the something so it gets better. And it’s easy to say “down with X, it’s so flawed!” without proposing a meaningful, and better alternative.

You can spot these folks by their campaign rhetoric on these topics: it’ll be focussed on the problems. They’re not about making the “roughly right” better, they want to throw it all out. Even the more sophisticated, reasonable-sounding ones will, when you scratch the surface, still support throwing out roughly right things.

If we end up electing too many people like this, whose actual aim is to undermine or overturn roughly right initiatives, there’s a good chance that progress will stop altogether or be seriously, badly delayed.

And this won’t be constructive delay while everyone’s energy is focussed on fixing what’s wrong (like the LGWM health check and resulting reforms). This will be really stupid, pointless, enervating delay because officers will be forced to go back to square one, re-convincing from first principles a bunch of people who are, uncomfortably, realising that responsible leadership may actually mean having to “go back on my election promise to kill X with fire”. (In the case of SNAs, for example, some candidates got themselves elected promising to “stop all that” only to learn … protection of indigenous biodiversity by delineating spatial areas is a legislative requirement of the RMA. Councils don’t get to say “we won’t do that”.)

So, dear reader, it’s better to elect flawed people who are broadly supporting roughly right change, than someone who claims to be pursuing an (impossible) perfect solution – or just saying Naaaaahhhhhhh.

Top tips

Knock out the bad news ones

  • use the Policy.nz and Vote Climate scorecards. Helpful to see candidates scored on their own material – Policy.nz use what candidates send in!
  • look up Local Democracy Project material on them, written by professional journalists including investigative ones. You can do a domain search of stuff.co.nz or rnz.co.nz  with their name and the “local democracy project” tab and you’ll be pulling up content from the excellent LDR collaboration (MOU here). They’ve been great on revealing candidates with worrying affiliations, like anti-science / conspiracy theorist / voices for freedom / parliament protest supporters.

To pick between the remainder…

  • Ask yourself: “What actual substantive thing makes me feel warmer / cooler towards this candidate?” A moment’s reflection will help expose how much face-recognition or other cognitive bias is colouring your view (hello, real estate agents-turned-candidates!).     
  • Just internet them – especially with an incognito window, to see what you don’t normally see.
  • Have they any track record of community service, governance? How do they come across on Facebook (look at recent stuff as well as a few years back – see if they’ve changed their tone once they started contemplating running for council).
  • Check if they’ve ever bothered to make submissions on citywide things before, like climate change, transport, reserves, Significant Natural Areas (SNAs). If they have, did they say sensible stuff? Remember, submissions to council and government consultations are all publicly available so in the ginormous PDF Committee report on the council’s or government department’s webpage, do a CTRL+F for the candidate’s name.

If you’re in a hurry and trying to decide between two or more middling candidates, you can try our handy sniff-test:

And remember: for those things that’ll make our cities fairer and more sustainable – 

  • density done well,
  • people-friendly streets,
  • efficient and effective transport,
  • efficient and effective three-waters infrastructure
  • responsible biodiversity protection

– it’s better to have folks supporting roughly right change, than folks supporting precisely wrong or folks secretly trying to do no-change-at-all.


Good luck go to it!


Here’s some basic info from Vote.nz.
Posting? In the box TUESDAY.
Or find a ballot box  – they’ll be mapped on your council’s website like Porirua’s here. Google “where to vote [your city]”. Make sure your vote’s in the box before the place with the box in it closes on on Saturday 8th October!

One comment on “Go on, do the vote thing”

  • TW Editor says:

    Sniff tests bring used by some of our readers:
    (- is a negative ie the red cross; + is a positive ie the green tick)

    – “Freedom!” (Has been engaging with a lot of US right wing rhetoric)

    – “I’ll Fix the buses” [if not standing for GWRC] (Being a City Councillor gives you barely more leverage than anyone else on this issue)

    + “renters pay rates too”

    + “we’ll never get everyone happy but what’s important is that we’re evolving” – quote from a candidates event

    – “i support density / cycleways / modeshift but only when done well” – then not elaborating

    – “I support ALL modes of transportation”

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