Signage skulduggery season

A proliferation of election signs, and a proliferation of signage argy-bargy, are an early...
A proliferation of election signs, and a proliferation of signage argy-bargy, are an early indication of election season. Photos: Linda Robertson/Mark Price.
Otago has entered the election season, a period during which fever spreads faster than the madness of spring. In the first of a weekly column for local body buffs, David Loughrey relates the strange behaviours that result.

We may at this stage only be feeling a little giddy, and our temperature may be just a little above normal, but there can be no doubt the region is in the first throes of a severe election fever.

It should not be a surprise.

It was foretold by a wise woman some weeks ago.

’Twas July 20 when Dunedin electoral officer Pam Jordan told a wide-eyed group of prospective councillors, community board members and mayors there would be plenty of eyes watching their every move.

People would pounce on their mistakes, she clearly warned them, and those people would not necessarily be electoral officials.

"It’s usually other candidates or people working on their behalf who dob them in," she predicted.

Ms Jordan was right on the money.

It wasn’t long before the first tip came quietly to the Otago Daily Times from a candidate questioning the size of a rival’s election sign, complete with dark allusions to the Electoral Act.

Those concerns were unfounded, a Dunedin City Council source told us, being something to do with the difference between signs and billboards, an explanation that went right over our heads.

It all had something to do with the district plan and the Electoral (Advertisements of a Specified Kind) Regulations 2005, possibly the juiciest sounding piece of law we have ever heard of.

It just gives you goosebumps.

But there was more.

The fever hit hard and early in Queenstown, where a bunch of signs were torn from their moorings in a Ballarat St car park by an election vandal.

Worse, the vandal did not take these art works home to enjoy over wine and a kale and roquette salad, they merely, we understand, dumped them around the corner.

And it didn’t stop there.

In Wanaka last week, a disgusted community board member had to stand holding an A4-sized sign with his name on it, after the proper sign he had erected on the corner of Ardmore and McDougall Sts was stolen.

It was a bad business all round.

But the signage issue was only one of a series of strange behaviours that cropped up as delirium began to take hold.

In Dunedin, three and a-half days before nominations closed mid-last month, less than half the candidates required to fill all the seats had managed to get to the council to hand in their forms.

The result was the last moments of the nomination period were a blur of activity in a small room metres  from George St as desperate men and women scurried to fill in forms before the clock struck noon.

Three failed in their attempts, a pre-election cull for those who could not pass over that particular, and fairly low, bar.

So remember, more than 50% of the candidates you are soon to vote for are quite possibly  procrastinators, the sort that didn’t do their school project until the night before it was due, didn’t tell their parents, and in the end, their parents had to do it for them, even though there was something good on the telly.

They are likely the sort seen in tears in the university library the day before an essay is due, and they don’t know what to write because they were late to all the lectures and missed the good stuff.

Let’s hope they make a more timely job of running the city.

Also occurring this election, as it occurs every election, is the phenomenon of tactical mayoring.

Tactical mayoring is an election behaviour in which candidates who really want to be councillors, and know they don’t have a snowflake’s chance in hell of being mayor, go for mayor anyway.

Candidates engage in tactical mayoring because they get to speak at mayoral election forums, and they get a mayoral candidate’s interview in the Otago Daily Times.

Some, at least, are refreshingly honest about it.

Maybe next election they will stop doing it all together.


Let's hope there are some who have been self-employed and have experience of how to run a business, and really want to help and actually listen to what citizens concerns and needs are.