Why we don’t …… and won’t vote

Roy Pilott

Local body politics isn’t sexy.

It doesn’t have the presence of a Winston Peters, the charisma of a Jacinda Ardern, and local body “political editors” on TV news at six breathlessly reporting on the latest from city hall.

The elections are run by two companies which wield enormous power once every three years, taking control of council communications with the media when it comes to election issues.

The elections are not click bait material – which is why the elections in Waipā get little more than a passing glance from the country’s biggest media companies.

Of course, elsewhere Tim Shadbolt will get a nod, and there will be laments about poor nomination numbers and woeful voter turnouts. This week national media woke up to news that protesters were sabotaging candidate meetings in Wellington. The media hadn’t attended the meetings, this was all second-hand news.

In Waipā, following our dogged reporting, a councillor resigned in disgrace over a conflict of interest about an illegal quarry and another councillor made a public apology over comments he made about land for a third bridge.

Similarly, as far as Waipā election coverage goes, The News has been something of a lone voice in the wilderness during the election campaign.

Just as media apathy and the click bait mentality have contributed to the increasing lack of interest in how we are governed locally, so has central Government. Its blinkered approach to advertising and refusal to place any adverts in genuine community newspapers is nothing short of disgraceful. But then, the Government has committed to pay $55 million of taxpayer money to national media organisations to cover news we bring you free of charge.

On Saturday night we will have new councils. Writers who will struggle to name who was standing on their patch will cry crocodile tears over the appalling voter turnouts.

In three years – given the comments made by the Prime Minister this week – we will be talking about moving to online voting. We should have made the move long ago.

But if the Voices for Freedom movement achieves its goal getting supporters – some might say smuggling – onto councils around the country, perhaps there will be a lot more interest in 2025.

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