An article by Drs Andy Asquith and Andrew Cardow in the New Zealand Herald on 19 November 2015, ‘Local Politicians, Fly Your Colours’, asserts that:
[B]y hiding behind various constructions candidates are being somewhat dishonest in their projection … Maybe the time has come for the candidates in local body elections of all types to declare their political biases. Instead of Citizens and Ratepayers try National; instead of City Vision try Labour. The fiction is not helpful to anyone.
City Vision is very clearly branded as an alliance of Greens, Labour and community independents. The authors also show a lack of historical understanding of Auckland local Government voting habits with the following:
Perhaps those standing for City Vision, closely identified with Labour, also need to change their name – although you could argue this metamorphosis has already begun, with four candidates for the council identified as being “Labour” in 2013.
The areas in which Labour-branded candidates were run were in south Auckland, where candidates have run on Labour tickets for many years, and in Henderson-Massey in west Auckland where support for Labour is so strong that 5 out of 7 of that local board were elected on the ticket. But this is not a recent shift in these areas, particularly in south Auckland, it is a continuation of historic voting habits.
On the Auckland isthmus, however, things are more nuanced. I have written on this from a Green perspective before. As I noted in that piece, the electoral strategy must be formed to fit the electoral system. New Zealand does not have a uniform voting system for its local body elections. Seven councils in New Zealand use a Single Transferable Vote (STV) system while all the others have a First Past the Post (FPP) system. STV is used for all District Health Board elections. Auckland still has FPP. I go into more detail on why FPP necessitates a progressive bloc forming here. Suffice to say, it is important to avoid the problem of vote-splitting by running too many broadly-aligned candidates for a limited number of positions.
Asquith and Cardow’s main thesis seems to be that in ‘most council chambers around the country, including Auckland, councillors vote in blocs.’ But this is not reliably the case in Auckland – as the National government have found to their consternation – where conservative councillors often vote with progressives, inspiring the establishment of ‘Future Auckland’ to supercede the moribund C&R.
I think this idea that party members will always be ad idem has led the authors of the Herald piece to an incorrect conclusion: that local government tickets are somehow designed to conceal and deceive. I felt compelled to write a letter to the editor as follows, published on 23 November 2015:
I was bewildered to read Drs Asquith and Cardnow assert in Thursday’s paper that the local government ticket, City Vision, is synonymous with Labour. The most basic research on their part would have shown that City Vision is an alliance of the Green and Labour parties as well as community independents. This is made clear with the use of the logos or names of both parties on our pamphlets, election hoardings, website, facebook and twitter. Indeed, numerous long-serving elected members who stand under the City Vision brand do not belong to any political party.
I would also have expected two academics specialising in local government to understand that a progressive bloc has formed in Auckland not as some kind of disguise but because we retain the First Past the Post electoral system when national politics has long since moved to the MMP system.
City Vision has been clear and open about its political allegiances; we would welcome other groups such as C&R and Future Auckland being similarly honest and displaying the logos of the National and ACT parties that are their wellspring on their campaign materials.
Vernon Tava, Deputy Chair of City Vision, Auckland Central