looking for leadership, in all the wrong places

The best steak I’ve ever had washed down with an out of my price range red, was in a pub in Wellington, offered by a very pleasant, very inebriated woman. She’d invited me over after I’d gone there to find my flatmates (to whom us girls had stupidly given our rent money in cash) to try tracking it down seeing as the landlord had been calling. I declined. She insisted. The flatmates were way past the signpost that reads ‘speaking to this person now will only end in homicide.’ So I accepted.

When I asked her why she was squandering money on such a lovely lunch to a random student who was obviously not dressed for the occasion she told me her story.

She’d cooked a perfectly good meal but her husband had come home blind drunk – he’d won big time on the horses. She was excited – they’d been struggling financially.

He told her to pack her bags. But not for a holiday. For good.

Then, for good measure (she took off her glasses which she’d been wearing the entire meal to show me) gave her the last black eye she was going to take.

She’d taken all of the money which lay scattered on the bed where he’d passed out and in a rucksack which was now, half open on the floor. She’d then been to the bank and cleared the joint account and now, she was officially on the run. “Where will you go?” “North. Maybe.” “What will you do?” “Who knows – I might get lucky and meet someone nice” she said surveying the insalubrious patrons in various forms of degeneration.

“Umm. Where did you meet your husband?” I asked trying not to sound rude. “In a pub.” “Like this one?” “Mmmm.”She wasn’t joining the dots.

Lately I’ve been feeling like that woman. Not in love, but in local politics.

It seems I’ve been looking for leadership, in all the wrong places – mainly in the established group of caudillos who have been holding the reins for a very long time.

I know there are lots of intelligent, well-adjusted and fiscally savvy people who understand the concepts of ‘public good’ and ‘conflict of interest’ living in Whangarei.

So where the bloody hell are you?

Like Bonnie Tyler, I’m holding on for a hero to fix everything that’s wrong in this lil ol’ town. (For the benefit of Gen Yers – check out the video clip and soberly consider that many of us lived through those hairstyles so you don’t have to.)

And it’s not this council’s fault.

Ostensibly ‘They’ are ‘Us’ – at least 49% of us voted in the last election and a majority of those, voted to return 62% of incumbents, up from only 38% in the previous two election rounds.

Is this a ringing endorsement or just an example of what that enthusiastic letter writer Paul Berks calls ‘rational apathy’ where the pay off for change is not worth the effort?

Certainly fewer of us are voting and in the seats where there is no challenger it’s impossible to even find the statistics of who or how many voted.

We have two such seats in Whangarei. It’s simply listed as ‘non-contested.’

Another stunning victory for democracy.

China has a similar system except officially it’s still called communism.

One way of looking at successful smooth government is when a ruling elite lets the silent majority know that governance is in good hands by ensuring that all seats are uncontested in the next local election.

Succession planning is then an easy matter of tapping your mate or cousin on the shoulder.


Sometimes it’s just easier to go back to what you know.

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