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What do we want in 2019?

Written By: - Date published: 1:39 pm, January 1st, 2019 - 97 comments
Categories: elections - Tags: , ,

So, thanks to the fact that we have a fixed term for local elections, we have 284 days until the next election. That’s right, it’s local election time on the 12th of October.

I’ve been reading some interesting ideas on reporting on elections and rather than tell you what’s going on or analyze anything this far off, what I’d rather do is ask you, the largely engaged and passionate readers of The Standard, which council(s) you’ll be voting for, and what issues you would like your local candidates to address? (the “who you get to vote for” part is because different issues will be important in different places)

Sure, it’s great to discuss policies, values, and intentions, but before that, we really need to know what the public want and why, or we’ll be talking about things that you all regard as distractions. I’ll be stopping by occassionally to reply to the best answers, or try and redirect comments that are going a bit astray.


So while we’re on the topic of local elections, I’ll also mention: The disastrous idea of trialling online voting has been canned, even if it would be opt-in, this time. Councils are still under the mistaken impression they have “solved” the security issues, something I’ve never heard an actual security professional admit was even possible, and they are still looking at moving forward in 2022, so if this concerns you and you’re a resident of one of the following areas, let your representatives know:

Auckland, Gisborne District, Hamilton City, Marlborough District, Matamata-Piako District, Palmerston North City, Selwyn District, Tauranga City Council and Wellington City.

There is a legitimate need for ways to better engage the public and boost turnout for local elections, but making them fundamentally more insecure (and this is compared to vote-by-mail, which arguably already is vulnerable to ballot theft) doesn’t seem to be a good answer. Part of the issue with this is that media are shedding local coverage, so I’m hoping that there will be some opportunities for me and other bloggers to step into the gap and actually give you an idea of what candidates are actually for and against, hence the question.

I’ve also always favoured moving General Elections to a fixed date* and aligning local elections with that date, allowing people to vote in person, and having councils co-operate with the Electoral commission on running a chiefly in-person vote at the same time as the general election as a way to boost turnout. It means there’s more to decide at the election, but it also means all the politics happens at once, and local candidates and national candidates can align policies or debate policies as appropriate, which should actually result in some real media attention to local candidates without having to go to weird extremes to get them covered, or relying on meetings that only super-engaged people ever come to, anyway.

Credit for image: Ingolfson, donated to the public domain on Wikipedia.

*Okay, I favour something a little more complicated with a kind of hybrid system for our national politics, of course, it can’t be me and still be simple.

I’d rather we have fixed election dates than the Prime Minister instructing the Governor General when to hold an election, but if a no-confidence vote passes, I still favour allowing a snap election without any special mandate, assuming that said no-confidence vote isn’t within a few months of the upcoming general election. The snap election would determine Parliament for the remainder of the existing fixed term, (the lack of such a legal requirement is why the UK’s fixed term Parliaments aren’t really “fixed term,” so much as a less flexible system that still allows a consequence-free snap election with a supermajority in favour) so there would be a genuine disincentive to calling one when it’s not needed, and it would be held on, say, the tenth particular day of the week (eg. Wednesday or Saturday) following the house being dissolved so that nobody gets to tweak the exact timing.

And as I’ve mentioned before, I also want election day to be on a weekday and a public holiday, (and to be portable to the next working day for people who don’t usually work that day, just to be fair) so that as few people need to ask for time off to vote as possible, and so that people feel like they’re genuinely being given extra time to vote rather than it being a chore they have to fit into an existing weekend. These two things complement each other really well, and it’s a little insane that we’ve fixed local election dates but not national-level ones.

97 comments on “What do we want in 2019? ”

  1. mickysavage 1

    I agree entirely with you about online voting …

    Auckland Council is investigating online voting

    • Matthew Whitehead 1.1

      Yep, this will be a bottom line for me in Southern Ward and for Mayor. I’m not touching any candidate who doesn’t commit to voting against future trials, even if that means I have to vote for Fleur.

      • veutoviper 1.1.1

        Matthew, my apologies that I have not yet read your post in detail – my mind was on NZ Women’s Weekly for most of the morning, with varying reactions here, LOL.

        Anyway, just the mention of online voting pulled my mind back to the fact that last week or thereabouts I went down other rabbit holes and researched the background to the 2018 NZ Census, focusing on:

        – when the whole decision etc to go online was made and on what basis (research papers, Cabinet decisions etc)
        – who the (National) Ministers were when the 2018 approach was researched and decided
        – what ability or not, Shaw had to change things in the short time between him becoming Minister of Statistics (26 Oct 2017) and the 2018 Census on 6 March 2018.

        I put it aside with the holiday period with the intention of pulling it together perhaps later in Jan and posting it here – to get a bit of ammunition to the claims that Shaw is totally responsible.

        It seems to me that some of the decisions etc made with regard to the online Census could also be relevant to the local election scenario. So won’t set a deadline, but will try to pull something together with the rough stuff I have already done much sooner than I had planned so people much more expert than myself in this area (such as yourself) can have a go at making sense of it and identifying any areas of commonality.

        Second point is your remark re Fleur. Interested for my own reasons being my one or two interactions, but understand if you don’t want to discuss openly.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          Shaw doesn’t have the ability to trump local voting as minister, and IIRC the enabling legislation is already in place.

          RE: Fleur, she seems nice as a person but I’ve never been impressed with any local politicians from Labour. I voted for Laurie Foon in the by-election.

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    So while we’re on the topic of local elections, I’ll also mention: The disastrous idea of trialling online voting has been canned, even if it would be opt-in, this time. Councils are still under the mistaken impression they have “solved” the security issues, something I’ve never heard an actual security professional admit was even possible, and they are still looking at moving forward in 2022, so if this concerns you and you’re a resident of one of the following areas, let your representatives know:

    Online voting is the only way we’re going to get actual democracy rather than elected dictatorship. Security is never going to be absolute same as it’s absolute with a paper system. You can pretty much guarantee that some fraud is happening in the present system and it’s not being caught. It is highly unlikely that online voting is anywhere near as insecure as snail-mail voting.

    Yet politicians are pushing ahead with plans to offer online voting, despite the clear and present danger online voting poses to the integrity of the democratic process. “Like everything else on the internet, [online voting] is not secure, but the really important point for elections is that you wouldn’t even know if the outcome was manipulated or not,” Teague says.

    We don’t know that anyway. I can’t even check to see if my was counted or even counted properly.

    However, offering online voting also makes it accessible to every spy, gangster, mercenary, and hacker on the planet. Attackers could easily violate the sanctity of the secret ballot, modify votes, or even make the web application unavailable to certain voters on polling day.

    No, actually, they can’t can’t easily do it at all. Same as it’s not easy to manipulate a paper system. Both are possible – just not easy.

    Because the online voting platform, built by Spanish firm Scytl, is not open source, the researchers were unable to test the application prior to the election.

    And there’s the problem – private enterprise.

    The perfect is the enemy of good enough.

    The security that we have available, if we use it properly and don’t leave up to cost cutting corporations, is good enough and we need online voting to get a better democracy.

    So, that would be my first point – we need online voting and council and central government should get it done ASAP. It needs to be done by a government department that is not beholden to any corporate.

    Second point:
    Wards are pretty much useless. The idea of them to encourage greater participation is good but it has been badly implemented. I’m pretty sure that the majority of people don’t even know which ward they belong to never mind what decisions are being made for the ward by the people who ‘lead’ it.

    This is a complete breakdown of communication and it needs to be addressed ASAP. It needs to tell people what’s happening and then allow them to have a say.

    • Matthew Whitehead 2.1

      So one of the problems with fraud in an internet system is that it tends to be all-or-nothing. If you compromise online voting, you won’t do it to cast one extra vote- you’ll do it to guarantee a particular candidate wins, so the fraud we get at the moment, which tends to be one or two individuals stealing ballots and impersonating other voters, will instead be upgraded to mass ballot-stuffing or changing hundreds or thousands of existing votes. This is inappropriate for a high-stakes election where it’s impractical to be held again.

      You should probably also make it clear that you’re only quoting me in quote 1, btw. The links I provided are to make it clear I’m not the only one saying this, and I’m not particularly invested in their wording.

      Another problem is that in addition to being insecure, it’s actually mathematically incapable of being secure in a secret election according to our current understanding. This means if we want online voting we have a choice between technical vulnerabilities or social vulnerabilities: either we open ourselves to the type of all-or-nothing security vs hacking every single vote type problems, or we “secure” the system on a technical level by abandoning secret voting and open local elections to intimidation and vote-buying by allowing people to remotely verify how they’ve voted. Neither of those things are acceptable. (coincidentally, this is why I also oppose being able to verify that your vote has been received in a local election while we still vote by mail- someone can make you fill out your vote in front of them, so spoiling it later or not mailing it are the only ways to avoid voter intimidation- of course vote-by-mail is also vulnerable to vote buying, but that’s why I want to switch to in-person voting)

      I do agree any attempt to transition to online voting should not involve private contractors, but you won’t get anyone who is both qualified and wants to do it outside of said contractors because actual experts in both elections and cryptography agree it’s not just “not perfect,” it’s a fundamentally flawed idea to have high-stakes elections use online voting of the types we’ve developed now.

      I actually agree that wards are a poor system, but New Zealanders like having local representatives, and we haven’t yet convinced people emotionally that they need to be toned back. I’d like to see some council seats elected at large through re-weighted range voting, with a few single-seat wards voted on using an approval or range vote just to ensure certain areas aren’t ignored, but I’m not sure how saleable that is to the public.

      • greywarshark 2.1.1

        I think you’re back into pure theory DTB. I wish things would work as well as you picture them and in accordance with the best benefits for all with the highest integrity.

        But many of us are back-sliding animals even if we personally don’t agree with that observation. If something can be done that will make something change from the plan and advantage someone, it will happen sooner or later. (Murphy’s law expanded.)

      • Draco T Bastard 2.1.2

        So one of the problems with fraud in an internet system is that it tends to be all-or-nothing.

        And someone will have to get into all of them undetected. Each one will be a single attempt to break the system and each will take time and have an effect that can be detected. The more times that someone tries to break it the more chances that its going to be detected.

        so the fraud we get at the moment, which tends to be one or two individuals stealing ballots and impersonating other voters,

        It’s not one or two.


        And that’s just the ones we know about. We can be sure that there are some that we don’t know about.

        Our present voting systems are about as secure as leaving the house unlocked. Sure, most of the time nothing will happen.

        Another problem is that in addition to being insecure, it’s actually mathematically incapable of being secure in a secret election according to our current understanding.

        And it’s mathematically impossible for present systems to also be perfectly secure.

        This means if we want online voting we have a choice between technical vulnerabilities or social vulnerabilities: either we open ourselves to the type of all-or-nothing security vs hacking every single vote type problems, or we “secure” the system on a technical level by abandoning secret voting and open local elections to intimidation and vote-buying by allowing people to remotely verify how they’ve voted.

        That’s a question of systems. We could put in place a type of system that has a single point of weakness that only requires a single hack to alter everything or we make it so that it requires millions of hacks all done in real time and done manually (hacker has to be at the PC manually altering the vote) when the hacker isn’t even going to know when they have to be there doing it.

        A digital system can be made far more secure than a manual system.

        I do agree any attempt to transition to online voting should not involve private contractors, but you won’t get anyone who is both qualified and wants to do it outside of said contractors because actual experts in both elections and cryptography agree it’s not just “not perfect,” it’s a fundamentally flawed idea to have high-stakes elections use online voting of the types we’ve developed now.


        Did you not notice that in your links there were already people doing this?

        All the government has to do is hire them on better terms and that’s not likely to be hard.

        I actually agree that wards are a poor system, but New Zealanders like having local representatives, and we haven’t yet convinced people emotionally that they need to be toned back.

        I may be keen to see the back of the electorates for national elections but I think wards are a good idea – just that their implementation sux. Need better communication protocols and a way for people to have a say.

        I’d like to see some council seats elected at large through re-weighted range voting, with a few single-seat wards voted on using an approval or range vote just to ensure certain areas aren’t ignored, but I’m not sure how saleable that is to the public.

        Probably not very as it sounds like an atrocious idea.

        We need more democracy – not less. More democracy means having an actual say in the decisions that the local council makes.

    • CHCOff 2.2

      Of course, on line voting is the most direct & intelligent method to creating a better and more responsive system.

      Inexpensive, & secure, with published database double verification systems.

      But Good Grief, that lovers of politics be superseded by practicalities of societal forms!!

    • McFlock 2.3

      Online voting, like online census forms, will make it easier for many but systematically disenfranchise a small percentage of people.

      A problem that’s not insurmountable, but “online” isn’t a negative-free improvement.

      • Draco T Bastard 2.3.1

        There are challenges but that doesn’t mean we simply shouldn’t do it. It means that we try to address those challenges.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          And what exactly do you say to the contention that it’s fundamentally impossible to do in an acceptable way?

          I’ll remind you that I’m so pro-digital I basically stopped using paper for anything whenever I could afford to, and I’m the one in this situation saying “hey, idiots, online voting is a terrible idea when in-person voting with subsequent checks for fraud are the most secure system we can possibly have!”

          You’re so gung-ho about this but you’re not exactly making a convincing case for it even being acceptable, let alone the “perfect” you claim we want. (I don’t actually want perfect, but I’d settle for “similar security levels to paper voting,” with “similar” meaning the observed cases of failure were either marginally more frequent or marginally more serious. Let’s say a two or three per mille increase in incidents is allowable, which would be roughly twice as insecure as paper voting. Show me you can limit adjustments to votes to only five in one thousand without compromising on the election being a secret ballot, please. I’ll wait.

          • Andre

            Strictly speaking, New Zealand’s elections aren’t secret ballot are they? IIRC every time I’ve gone to vote I’ve received a numbered ballot and that number was recorded against my name in the electoral roll.

            So if anyone with access to the bits of paper wanted to find out who I voted for (Deborah Russell and Greens, to save the bother), they could hunt through the electoral rolls to find where I voted, find my ballot number, then hunt through the ballots to find mine.

            • McFlock

              ISTR reading in the paper the occasional court case of double voting where they do that. But it all depends on the security they have around the voting register (i.e. roll plus ballot number) which I assume is tight and the security around the ballots which I know is tight.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Vote-by-mail is supposed to be a secret ballot, in theory. It’s a bit more insecure than that in practice, but it’s hard to know how much as the only time you can distinguish a stolen ballot from a real one is if someone notices and figures out how to complain that their ballot was stolen.

              Being able to see both the numbered ballot and who that number actually correlates to is supposed to be restricted to an absolute minimum of people.

            • Visubversa

              Not “anyone” with access. Those with access to voting papers have all done a Statutory Declaration about secrecy and confidentiality. Matching an individual to a ballot paper is only done in cases where voting fraud is suspected. I have been a scrutineer a few times, and seen how well controlled the whole process is.

              I think it is very important to provide more places where “postal” ballots can be handed in, and where people who have not had a postal ballot can get a special vote. It needs to be at least as long a time as early voting in General Elections, and in a similar number of places. There are always heaps of discarded postal ballots kicking around letterboxes of blocks of flats and other places where people move around a lot. The opportunities for fraud are tremendous.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Those with access to voting papers have all done a Statutory Declaration about secrecy and confidentiality.

                And I’m pretty sure that all the spies throughout history have also signed such agreements.

                Matching an individual to a ballot paper is only done in cases where voting fraud is suspected.

                And the spies have still managed to get information out often through getting collaboration of those in control of the process.

                I’m not saying that it happens. Just that no system is perfectly secure.

          • Draco T Bastard

            And what exactly do you say to the contention that it’s fundamentally impossible to do in an acceptable way?

            I’d say that it was a load of bollocks. Security risks are always going to be there but we can minimise them to the point that the risks are acceptable as we’ve minimised the security risks in the present system but it’s still nowhere near secure.

            I’ll remind you that I’m so pro-digital I basically stopped using paper for anything whenever I could afford to, and I’m the one in this situation saying “hey, idiots, online voting is a terrible idea when in-person voting with subsequent checks for fraud are the most secure system we can possibly have!”

            The present system doesn’t allow democracy and so we need to go to online voting. That’s the problem with holding on the present system.

            I don’t actually want perfect, but I’d settle for “similar security levels to paper voting,” with “similar” meaning the observed cases of failure were either marginally more frequent or marginally more serious.

            <I'm reasonably certain that this is more secure than paper voting. When I went down to the voting place they asked for my card and gave me my paper. Sure, if two people try voting with the same card/details it will most likely be picked up but that’s reliant upon human error.

            And, of course, mail based voting is totally insecure.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Constant referendums aren’t necessary for Democracy DTB. I know this is your thing but you really need to use the proper term, which is “direct Democracy,” and I agree you practically can’t have it without online voting, but to get a secure direct democracy you need to have a social solution where you can prevent voter intimidation and vote buying, (because a secret election is just not compatible with an online direct democracy) beyond just making them illegal.

              And you are clearly talking about individual voter fraud whereas I am talking about systemic issues like “one person can compromise your server(s) and change every vote they want to.” Individual voter fraud is detected at a quarter of a percent of voters. My criteria is that no more than half a percent of votes end up interfered with on average in a secret ballot system, and I’m reasonably certain that will categorically kill online voting as an option if it’s ever seriously trialled under such criteria, as the only way to guarantee closing the security holes is to let everyone see and check each other’s votes so that they’re not interfered with.

              I’m happy to acknowledge that vote-by-mail is also terrible in terms of ballot fraud, which is why I want to piggyback local elections onto a fixed-term general election, to drive turnout and make voting more secure. I should note that identifying the actual human voting isn’t generally considered a weak point in any electoral system by any expert, despite you pointing to basic 2FA as a “security improvement,” lol. Most election experts who cover the New Zealand system actually are rather effusive in their praise of the Electoral Commission making it easy to sign up and vote but still checking for fraud after registration is done.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Constant referendums aren’t necessary for Democracy DTB.

                Nationally you need one every time that there’s a major policy change required.
                Locally, you’d need one every time there’s a decision to be made in the local ward.

                IMO, that would be pretty much constantly.

                And you are clearly talking about individual voter fraud whereas I am talking about systemic issues like “one person can compromise your server(s) and change every vote they want to.”

                That, too, can be minimised as well as being highly detectable. Have you really considered what’s needed in such a case?

                If the hacker tried to change all of them at the same time CPU and storage usage would spike telling us that something was wrong.
                If they tried to change them one at a time after the votes were cast then the change would be detectable in the ongoing real-time vote count.
                And, of course, trying to change them at the time of voting is going to be a man-in-the-middle attack which comes to that single authentication that you don’t seem to be concerned with.

                Anything detected should trigger a shut-down and an investigation into what went wrong.

                Anything done on a computer is detectable if the necessary checks are in place. That’s how anti-virus works.

                I’m not going to say that it’s impossible just that it can be made hard enough that the risk is minimised.

                I should note that identifying the actual human voting isn’t generally considered a weak point in any electoral system by any expert

                Really? That would indicate that the ‘experts’ are all rather stupid.

                We do it every single election but we do it backwards in that we only check if something doesn’t look right after the vote is cast. Which really makes me question just how secure the present system is. How many hundreds or thousands of people are voting without realising that they’re voting? In a system where one vote may make the difference.

                Simple fact of the matter is that we, as a society, need to ensure that only those who have the right to vote in our society are actually voting. That’s not optional no matter how much people like to say secret voting. And the best time to do that check is at the time of voting.

                • Matthew Whitehead

                  You’re perpetuating completely garbage non-facts about voter impersonation fraud in those last two paragraphs. There is no good evidence that voter impersonation fraud is a problem to the degree it’s ever impacted a NZ election, and the only races it could theoretically impact are direly close electorate races.

          • Nic the NZer

            Your contention that it is fundamentally impossible to execute online voting in a secure manner is definitely incorrect. Day to day we already use secure online systems providing secure, anonymous access to personal information. This happens for you every time you use an online email server. Well fewer than 5 in 1000 online email accounts are compromised and controlled by an impostor (and any online voting would be able to deal with this in a similar manner of re-validating identity and changing credentials). Additionally most of the large scale hacks of password systems are not caused by vulnerabilities in the security mechanism, but by poor security practices leading to the information being accessed and stolen (which is a completely different problem).

            The main problems with online ballots arise from particular project implementation problems. These problems could certainly be overcome in practice though there are likely to be a number of challenges for any such project to overcome (and a failure to understand the unique challenges of such a project) which may explain why online voting systems have typically had significant issues in the past.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              5 in 1000 is the acceptable ratio I set for votes being changed, where it’s twice as big an issue an the non-issue of voter impersonation fraud- but if you think people won’t go after all the votes at once instead of trying to send in extras I’m not sure what to say for you, as spoofing an email is much lower-stakes than spoofing a vote, and again, this is not considering compromising the server rather than finding ways to compromize security as a client.

              The other thing that makes it nigh-impossible is that you need to be able to certify, with a very high level of confidence, that the number of potentially insecure or fraudulent ballots is lower than the decisive margin, and you generally need to be able to do it within a week. I just don’t see that being practical- for elections, finding out a result was actually “wrong” after it’s been officially certified is much worse than lower turnout or one or two instances of vote-spoofing or voter impersonation, especially not in a closed-source environment.

              • Nic the NZer

                “but if you think people won’t go after all the votes at once instead of trying to send in extras I’m not sure what to say for you”

                I think you have a misunderstanding of how such a system must work. In producing the tally the system will have to have a master list of voters and will count exactly one vote for any voter. This can be vulnerable to impersonation, but it can’t be vulnerable to somebody voting multiple times. In order to cast extra ballots the fraudster would need to get additional identities onto the electoral role (the master list of voters).

                Contrary to your comment, the stakes for stealing peoples email accounts are extremely high. These often contain sensitive account numbers and breaches could easily lead to the direct theft of money.

                Of course the main issue is with your server side security, however these security problems are in no way particular to elections systems.

                I have a suggestion for how the verification can be done. The client side can optionally produce a paper receipt. This would contain a record of what the voter cast, and an anonymous id number (probably in a bar code form). This could then be optionally mailed in to verify that the voter was not defrauded.

        • McFlock

          Actually, until those “challenges” are exhaustively identified and solved, it means we shouldn’t do it.

          And part of getting to that “until” stage involves not just looking on the bright side and hand-waving away “challenges” (read: “the threat of electoral fraud on a massive and possibly unprovable scale”).

          • Matthew Whitehead

            Indeed, I’m one of the most enthusiastic proponents of radical change, especially when the results might be improving our future ability to make other radical changes, but we still need to establish the change is better than the status quo first as a bare minimum.

          • Nic the NZer

            Unfortunately this approach will lead to it never happening. This is because most of the challenges are in the implementation. Of course when the design is specified for such a system the design always follows best security practice and is designed to be secure.

            The problem arises when in practice the design proves not to be ‘implemented’ securely. (I have quoted ‘implemented’ here because any kind of programming is actually a design activity so your broad system design is incomplete and you need to continue to deal with the security of the design during implementation, in fact this is more important than a secure design). People typically don’t understand this about software projects but in brief you have not finished with their design until you have a working (and well tested) software.

            Additionally most of the security problems arise from the human aspect of the system (such as key officers exposing passwords). Since the challenges to the project arise during the project you can’t just wait for them to be resolved without rejecting any attempt at implementation.

            • McFlock

              Then so be it.

              Going by that theory, any transition to computerised voting risks undetectable mass vote tampering.

              • Nic the NZer

                Projects certainly do have that risk as a possibility. I read one of the links in the article suggested security researchers had found a way to do undetectable mass vote tampering to an online voting system implementation. The researchers seemed appropriately horrified that the projects were completely un-ready to deal with the discovered problem (among others). The slightly subtle implication of this is that the researchers also know ways to deal with these technical problems.

                Obviously one implication of what I said is that these kind of projects must always be setup to be ready to deal with these problems when they are discovered and never be enabled to ignore them (publicity around security flaws is more complex as mitigation takes time).

                The technical contention that tampering is un-detectable from that article is sensationalist and in practice not a real concern. Ultimately, you can allow people to review how they voted later electronically, if enough people report that their vote was tempered with you can be pretty certain of tampering from this. This works in the same way elections are verified for fixing/tampering by exit polls. Though you can probably mitigate much of the need for this with a voting app which keep a receipt on the voting computer anyway, just as the researchers say you can’t actually verify that the client is using this app or just something which looks like it when they do vote. But by keeping a receipt on the voting computer you could almost certainly find when their vote was tampered with later.

                Largely the problems these kind of research expose are pretty mundane, but get media attention. The DefCon last year posed an example of SQL injection to ~10 year olds. With some training the kids could break it in minutes, so it made the news. I also believe the example was based on security flaws found recently with some online state voting systems. Thing is 100% of SQL injection attacks can be prevented, they are really low hanging fruit, it should not even be a challenge for experienced web-developers to prevent them. This is indicative of the skill and seriousness exhibited by a lot of these projects in practice, and its no wonder they have hideous security flaws given who is often involved, and how they are being run.

                • McFlock

                  So that’s the penalty for failure.

                  The bonus, as far as I can see, is that maybe a computerised system will enable a transition to a more direct democracy. Which is a system of government I don’t favour anyway, because crowds are dicks.

                • Matthew Whitehead

                  If you had a system going live with that vulnerability, it would potentially completely undermine confidence in the system and make things much worse than they already are- and I would remind you that technology projects are infamous for not fixing bugs that were claimed to have been fixed, or accidentally re-introducing them through interactions of complex systems or just poor version control, and again, I’m not sure how you verify an electronic count to a similar degree of confidence in a similar timeframe as compared to a count with paper originals when there are potentially invisible ways to hack the damn thing.

                  • Nic the NZer

                    The problems I described above were all things that went live. This is what happens when you do a half arsed job of a software project, but its quite far from good practice.

                    I think I already diagnosed why you incorrectly don’t trust computers to add up votes in a comment above.

                    Anyway you suggested it was impossible to solve in practice, but there are examples which implement a similar level of importance and security and they are in daily use. Obviously no number of inept implementations says anything about that topic.

    • One Two 2.4

      Online voting is the only way we’re going to get actual democracy rather than elected dictatorship


      Digital and technology is not a strong point for you, Draco…

      • Draco T Bastard 2.4.1

        I see that you, as per normal, can only abuse someone because you’re too ignorant and too stupid to make an argument.

        • One Two

          Where is the abuse in my comment, as you interpret it?

          Your statement about online voting being the ONLY way to actual democracy… was and is nonsense…

          And in your way of thinking…citation!

          When it comes to digital and technology you have repeatedly shown that it is not a stong point for you…when you’re strong I say as much in response and support…

          Online voting must never get a foothold in Nz, and digital currency/creation will never be controlled by the public sector, and as such cash must always be a component…

          Yet you advocate for both of the above despite the gaping holes and obvious outcomes…that is flawed thinking…

          No need for me to point out the actual abuse in your comment to me…

          [MjW: Just because you believe your analysis of Draco is correct doesn’t mean you weren’t playing the man rather than the ball. I’m calling it even and hoping you’re both done, as I don’t find speculating on the intelligence of your fellow posters when they’re actually trying to make a real point particularly productive. No more ad-hominem attacks or implications in this thread please.]

          • Draco T Bastard

            Your statement about online voting being the ONLY way to actual democracy… was and is nonsense…

            And in your way of thinking…citation!

            To have full, participatory democracy happening using the present system we’d need about ten thousand polling places manned for a double shift every day by at least five people per shift.

            That’s 100,000 people employed permanently on a full time basis. Or, to put it another way, about 3% of the working age population.

            And that’s just the polling places. On top of that we have the daily printing of the polling papers, the transportation of them, the security staff employed and more that I can’t think of ATM.

            All up I wouldn’t be surprised to see 200,000 people employed doing it all.

            So, with 7% of the working age population employed just maintain ongoing voting what would we cut? The farmers? The teachers? The nurse and doctors?

            Or the government could employ a few hundred, maybe a couple of thousand, people to do the entire governments software needs and not affect other industries. What I’m talking about here is real economics. The point where we do one thing or something else. Such a department would probably end up being the same as the MoW, Telecom and even Railways – a source of skilled people for the private sector.

            Online voting must never get a foothold in Nz, and digital currency/creation will never be controlled by the public sector

            1. I’ve specifically said that digital currency would be done by the government and nobody else.
            2. I’ve specifically said that BitCoin and all other ‘digital currencies’ done by private groups/banks/individuals need to be banned.

            In other words, digital currency and online voting would be done the government only.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Your assumption that direct democracy is necessary for a good and functioning democracy is part of what’s leading you to believe that the massive security flaws here are somewhat acceptable, DTB. I’d actually like at the very least a robust theoretical model of statistical utilities on direct democracy versus various representative election modes. The usual method is comparative Bayesian regret using randomized utility values and a degree of uncertainty among each voter of their own utility value to simulate the “that’s not what I wanted!” effect.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Well, we already know that Representative Democracy produces an oligarchy and not a democracy. Of course, that was what it was designed to do:

                In order to do this, the Patriot leaders of the Revolution used ‘a language inspiring to all classes, specific enough in its listing of grievances to charge people with anger against the British, vague enough to avoid class conflict among the rebels, and stirring enough to build a patriotic feeling for the resistance movement’ (1999: 68). But this was a dificult game for the Patriot leaders to play because it required a balancing act, maintaining broadly popular support for the War of Independence and Revolution by appealing to universal notions of liberty and democracy, on one hand, while simultaneously defending the sanctity of property and the rule of a rich capitalist minority, on the other.

                Brian Roper in History of Democracy

                Representative Democracy was designed to keep the power out of the hands of the people.

                It was also about the only practical method at the time so some allowances need to be made.

                Does direct democracy really work? A review
                of the empirical evidence from Switzerland (PDF)

                Abstract: Discussions about direct democracy and its advantages and risks are often superficial, invoke stereotypes and ignore empirical data. This article tests seven common criticisms of direct democracy by referring to the Swiss experience. Evidently, Swiss democracy is not a copy/paste model, but has developed in a specific historical and institutional setting. It is obvious that both conservative as well as left-wing critics overemphasize their case against direct democracy by (wilfully) neglecting the evidence. Direct democracy does not lead to anarchy. The common people can make reasonable decisions. Minorities are not more discriminated against in direct democratic systems than in representative ones. Money plays a role in direct democracy, as it does in representative systems. Direct democracy slows down reforms, but it also makes them steadier and more sustainable. Direct democracy brings contentment to its citizens. Finally, direct democracy is not ideologically predisposed. It is a mechanism to revert policies back to the median voter.

                The Economic Effects of Direct Democracy – A Cross-Country Assessment

                This is the first study that assesses the economic effects of direct democratic institutions on a cross country basis. Most of the results of the former intra-country studies could be confirmed. On the basis of some 30 countries, a higher degree of direct democracy leads to lower total government expenditure (albeit insignificantly) but also to higher central government revenue. Central government budget deficits are lower in countries using direct democratic institutions. As former intra-country studies, we also find that government effectiveness is higher under strong direct-democratic institutions and corruption lower. Both labor and total factor productivity are significantly higher in countries with direct democratic institutions. The low number of observations as well as the very general nature of the variable used to proxy for direct democracy clearly call for a more fine-grained analysis of the issues.

                The Democratic Effect of Direct Democracy


                A key requirement of democratic governance is that policy outcomes and the majority preference of the electorate are congruent. Many studies argue that the more direct democratic a system is, the more often voters get what they want, but the empirical evidence is mixed. This analysis explores the democratic effect of initiatives and referendums theoretically and empirically. The prediction of the formal model is that “bad” representation (i.e., a large preference deviation between the electorate and the political elite) is good for the democratic effect of direct democracy. An empirical investigation of original voter and elite survey data, analyzed with multilevel modeling and poststratification, supports this argument. Building on the literature, the findings of the analysis suggest that the extent to which direct democratic institutions are conducive for policy congruence—and may thus be advisable as democratic correctives to representative systems—depends on the political conflict structure.

                This may come as a surprise but I don’t consider that Direct Democracy a panacea.
                1. I consider it necessary to govern ourselves rather than being governed
                2. I consider that it’s essential to our own personal growth, that the mistakes of governance are ours to make and correct

                • CHCOff

                  Wouldn’t go overboard with direct democracy regards to central proportional parliament.

                  Before an election, is used to ascertain the priority of issues and their rankings, within reason, of the electorate that the parties are to campaign for.

                  Halfway through the govt. term, are the top 3 to 5 govt. policies of the prior ranked issues being followed through by the govt ( i.e. are the policies elected for those, being followed & is the electorate happy with the progress/outcomes for those? – is the electorate math still the same another words ).

                  If not, for any of them, all the parties can put forward their alternatives and a ref. could be used to give the proportional jurisdiction for the parties to the particular issues. So it gives smaller parties the opportunity to admin or run a major policy or two potentially.

                  Accountability and inclusivity to be quite matter of fact and dry about it – the power mad utopianists would try and take it over but i think most people would have an intuitive grasp of it’s sensible application, that they wouldn’t be much of a problem.

                  • Draco T Bastard


                    The majority of us voted for National in the 2014 election despite the majority of us not wanting to sell our assets. We had a referendum on this which showed that the majority did not want to sell the assets. Government still sold those assets.

                    We do not have a democracy. If we did, even though the main party had campaigned upon selling those assets they would not have been sold.

                    Participatory Democracy is to get rid of this we know better than you BS that we’re confronted with from all parties.

                    • Matthew Whitehead

                      Actually only a plurality of people voted for National in 2014. They should have needed the Conservatives in coalition to have a majority in a system with a fair degree of representativeness.

                      I agree they behaved anti-democratically on that issue, but you’re basically looking at every point at which parties depart from the representative democracy model and saying “this isn’t what we want,” rather than critiquing representative democracy itself. If it’s fundamentally incapable of delivering what we want on a consistent level, to a degree greater than the problems in your alternative, then you’ve got a good case. But I can point to a lot of perverse outcomes from referendum decisions that the public don’t want to undo- the whole state of California is in budget crisis because of one.

                • Matthew Whitehead

                  There is no evidence the problems in the US are endemic to all representative democracies, in fact they largely seem to be related to the US’s lack of a healthy left-wing option in their politics. Likewise, Germany also has a problem with authoritarianism, and it has a problem with centrist parties locking out both left-wing and right-wing political parties from power.

                  If you don’t give the people some degree of representation of popular opinion in their existing political parties, they’ll look for it elsewhere, even if the elsewhere is broken.

                  1) Representative government that’s responsive to public opinion and feedback is governing ourselves.
                  2) See (1).

                  Your only link that in any way deals with the actual utility of democratic systems there seems to be based on assuming representative democracy is already incongruent with public opinion. This is largely only true in non-democratic voting countries, like the USA.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          Okay, you’ve both called each other stupid, I hope it’s out of your systems now.

  3. gsays 3

    Firstly, a values based wish politically: kindness.
    As Helen Kelly then Jacinda Adern have asked for.
    That can be anything from biting your tongue to practicing bi partisanship politics. Looking for what we have in common.

    I think the current Labour crowd are going well on this.

    Hopefully the marijuana reform referendum is worded appropriately. (I am against binding referenda, because the wording of a complex idea can lead us all astray).
    I personally prefer decriminalization as opposed to legalisation.

    • Matthew Whitehead 3.1

      Yep, would actually like to see all future referenda be accompanied by draft legislation, with a yes vote introducing said legislation to parliament for consideration in non-binding referendums, and enacting it in binding ones.

      I think marijuana decriminalization/legalization is an acceptable use of a binding referendum as it doesn’t potentially involve denial of someone’s human rights by a majority group.

      I’d love to see political candidates debate how they intend to bring kindness into local government- reforming political culture has been a Green aim since before Ardern was even in Parliament, (One of the many attacks on Nandor was based on him explaining this position of the party to the press) so I agree it’s good to see Labour getting on board, although as usual it’s the fate of smaller parties to have larger ones take/independently endorse their existing ideas and get credit for them as if they’re the first to think of them. 😉

      • greywarshark 3.1.1

        Just a thought while we’re looking at referendum subjects. Does euthanasia-managing legislation fit into that category – of not potentially involving denial of someone’s human rights by a majority group?

        • Matthew Whitehead

          If it’s only ever by the person’s own request or advance directive, arguably not, as nobody else is taking away their rights, they are voluntarily surrendering them for what they personally consider a better outcome.

          That said, despite in principle supporting limited euthanasia rights, I am practically opposed to the current bill going to referendum, or being passed by referendum, as I think it’s too broken to proceed to any serious degree in its current form, and needs to be fundamentally rethought. The only good thing I like about it is the compulsory referral system, which I think we should apply to abortion, too, so that Mary English and other conscientious objectors actually have to tell people a specific doctor that will provide one *rolls eyes*

    • gsays 3.2

      Firstly, a values based wish politically: kindness.
      As Helen Kelly then Jacinda Adern have asked for.
      That can be anything from biting your tongue to practicing bi partisanship politics. Looking for what we have in common.

      I think the current Labour crowd are going well on this.

      Hopefully the marijuana reform referendum is worded appropriately. (I am against binding referenda, because the wording of a complex idea can lead us all astray).
      I prefer decriminalization as opposed to legalisation.

    • Matthew Whitehead 4.1

      That’s more a 2020 question, as local politicians don’t control immigration. 🙂

      That said, what would you like Parliament to consider regarding immigration?

  4. greywarshark 5

    You suggest that people say what they are interested in as far as Council is concerned, and I have local and regional interests. This is a bit long but I have drawn a picture of some of the things I am aware of.

    This is Nelson briefly, as I see it today. We have been through a period of considering amalgamating Nelson and Tasman as one. But that was turned down. We have turned down a Maori ward even though there is a strong Maori presence here. (Some people think that if you don’t see Maori all over then there are few.) They were prepared to invest in the port facilities but no – the old money didn’t want that I suppose. Yet it would have been good local investment.

    Nelson is an old city with hills, some of which are inclined to slide, and quite a lot of in-filling housing in the flatter city area. The city shops and the firestation and police facilities all are on flat land much of which was swamp originally. So we could be subject to flooding, when the two water heights combine, heavy rain and a king tide.

    Richmond, in Tasman, is a growing township with a lot of flat land, and newer housing. So it’s a sort of messy situation a bit like Napier and Hastings, which are too close in some people’s minds. Nelson has grown to capacity; there is old money here and a bit of stranglehold on CBD properties with high rentals, and empty stores. We are dependent on tourism, and are working to have events during the winter season to perk up numbers and business.

    There is a familiar bias to the elderly, who are a majority in many areas. They have had a hall erected for them, to my mind as a vanity project; run into problems with progress delays, and extra costs. Yet a local community concern is possibly closing down; a meeting is down early January for a serious discussion over finances – I think it is insolvent. It’s been going for years and doing good work. I can’t bear that these good people, often poorly paid but in tune with the clientele, are on the brink.

    As times get harder for people, support and finance is being withheld and in other areas hubs have closed down. Quite a lot of support has come from the Rata Foundation for community work. But I looked up their recipients in recent years and much money has gone supporting cycleways, because they come within a public and community ambit. That ties in with getting finance for Key’s projects, at the expense of the needy.

    In Nelson there are advanced plans to build a gondola that carries people especially mountain bikers to a scenic high point so they can zoom down again. I can’t see it paying its way, it is using public land, people in the area are losing out because of it. But the Council has put money into this for the better-off. There is an active promoter for it on the Council.

    There is a modellers pond with a keen group of mainly older men who utilise it. But it gets weed infested and the Council wants them to raise the money to fix it. There is a company working on it which states that the Council is unhelpful and puts the success of their scheme in jeopardy. They say that this Council is unlike others which want a good outcome. One doesn’t know who to believe. But tourism is important to us and the whole thrust for 20 years or so has been to cater for overseas tourists, and NZ ones are also-rans in the thinking. So wanting a shallow pond for the locals seems outrageous.

    We seem very mixed up locally and as a nation about what we want to achieve.
    AirNZ has tours that come to the Nelson region. I made enquiries last year about them – after all the work we have done to establish ourselves as a place worth seeing their groups only visit a supermarket here then set off to the Tasman region for the Abel Tasman National Park so all the focus is on the outdoors attractions.

    Then over in Tasman they have just had to fight off a push to draw water from the Waikopupu Springs area(spelling). Tasman has let a group follow up a plan to flood a beauty spot in a valley for a dam and I don’t trust these supporters. I bet they will want to change the focus, now on berry farming etc, to dairy.

    • Matthew Whitehead 5.1

      That’s a lot of stuff, for sure. I’d suggest you condense it down to general themes or specific questions for candidates to discuss, though, or someone else will have to in order to get it into an interview or debate- eg. “the gondola project is likely to lose money and not deliver tourists or services to local residents. What do you propose doing instead?”

      • greywarshark 5.1.1

        Thanks I have a number of anxieties and tend to get overwhelmed.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          Yes hi, The Standard? Yeah I didn’t order a mirror, why are you holding one up to me? Oh, okay, I guess that’s fine. Thanks. 😉

          I don’t so much get overwhelmed as I’m unable to stop myself from covering everything. If I’m telling you to be more brief you know it’s necessary, lol. I thought you had some really good points there, but you need to be able to phrase them as short questions for them to get into interviews or debates, as I’m hoping we’ll be able to farm out some of these questions to local candidates- I may even canvass some of the Wellington ones myself.

          • greywarshark

            Thanks Matthew
            You didn’t crush me with your sensible reply. I value your opinion. Perhaps you could give me a brief reply on how I could take my idea forward that our local bodies should be stepping up to support their communities in a bigger way than in the past. The people on the Council live and work in the district, and perhaps we can get more done to benefit us all through the local government and citizens working and planning together?

            Central government seems to be off on New Think Big promotions in harness with (driven by whom?) wealthy people from other countries, and actually coached by the OECD.

            • greywarshark

              I thought Dennis Franks at 9 said some good things along the lines that I was thinking on. When you have time Matthew it would be interesting to know what your reply to Dennis would be and I’ll read that and get clued up.

            • Matthew Whitehead

              Just ask them how they will engage with and support local communities in a real way. You could even ask how they will delegate power and money more directly to communities who have sensible plans and get out of their way!

              I think you’re right on central government wanting to collect everything into big projects and not really listening to local communities at the moment- it’s a big Labour trademark these days, sadly.

  5. Kay 6

    The bus fiasco is Wellington has funnily enough made a lot of locals suddenly twig that there are consequences to voter apathy and perhaps it’s a good idea to vote out the morons at Greater Wellington Regional Council. But unfortunately the new bus system wasn’t rolled out 3 months before an election (well even the council wouldn’t risk that) and although not much has improved with said buses I’m expecting the kneejerk “vote ’em out” reaction will have waned as people adapt out of necessity to the bus system and apathy returns. Of course I’d love to be proved wrong

    There’s rumours circulating that certain GWRC councillors severely implicated in the fiasco won’t be standing again (cowards). I’d like to think there was some way to legally stop them if they tried to. Case in point, Chris Laidlaw and his complete contempt for the public, it’s even on record on Hansard from when he was hauled in front of the select committee. Should politicians at any level lose the right to run again for reasons other than criminal?

    • Matthew Whitehead 6.1

      We’d also need good candidates for Regional Council, and a lot of the reason we had the decision we did have is for two reasons that won’t change fast:

      a) Wellington doesn’t have a majority on the GWRC, but that’s the council deciding urban Wellington’s transport system rather than the WCC, who opposed the whole thing. Regional councils need to let go of funding and decision-making for local issues.

      b) GWRC sees itself as an oligarchical senate where you go to be justly rewarded for being a political luminary rather than a representative body, and that’s a culture change we can’t do without chucking most of the bums out.

      I’d say Entirely New and 30-years Younger GWRC, please, with Chris Laidlaw being deselected before he gets the chance to jump. I think a (fairly) contested selection whenever there’s a willing challenger is a fabulous idea and we should do more of it, especially as Labour should not want their name on Chris Laidlaw anymore.

      • greywarshark 6.1.1

        Councils like Wellington with their transport problems have had their hands tied by the supposedly superior system with superior people in it. Hah.

        I am interested that Infratil have sold their NZ Bus system to some Australian outfit that had a go at GoBus before selling it to Maori interests. I wonder if they are going to try that again.

        Infratil agrees to sell NZ Bus
        Next Capital briefly owned New Zealand’s Go Bus business between 2012 and 2014 before selling it to the nation’s two biggest iwi corporate entities for a reported $170 million.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          So, private ownership of transport systems and how we make ethical decisions about them? It’s a big theme where I live, that’s for sure. I think I’m about the only one who’s actually done reasonably well out of the new system, and that’s mainly because I now work in a place that’s serviced by one of the new bus routes.

  6. BM 7

    Controls placed on councils around spending.

    • Matthew Whitehead 7.1

      Why? Most councils already have implicit constraints around their practicalities of rate hikes.

      • greywarshark 7.1.1

        What about ‘general competence’ (I think it is called) Matthew?

        • Matthew Whitehead

          Can’t have that, if you did how would expired politicians retire to local politics, and how would right-wingers get elected at all? 🙂

          Asking a politician if you should have to be competent to be a politician will definitely get you a non-answer from pretty much everyone. A Green might try to answer, but it’s a bloody mean question, sorta like asking turkeys or chickens their opinions on Christmas. 😉

        • greywarshark

          General competence –

          There is a paper for which submissions are being asked. There is time to mid February, to add something to the mix. Their explanation says this:

          The Productivity Commission aims
          to provide insightful, well-informed
          and accessible advice that leads to
          the best possible improvement in
          the wellbeing of New Zealanders.
          We want to gather ideas, opinions,
          evidence and information to ensure
          that this inquiry is well-informed and
          relevant. The Commission is seeking
          submissions on the questions
          contained in this paper by
          15 February 2019.


          Local government
          funding and
          Issues paper

          November 2018

          It mentions ‘general competence’ on page 6 as:
          The LGA provides local authorities with the power of general competence (the ability to choose the activities they undertake and how they should undertake them, subject to public consultation). It sets out the powers of councils, including the power to make local bylaws, and councils’ planning and accountability requirements.

          I understood it to be the term for allowing Councils a very expanded financial self-management instead of the previous style where application to central Government had to be made for all but the simplest projects.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            aaaaaah, sorry I thought you meant the more colloquial meaning of competence, lol.

            • greywarshark

              Now i have seen this invitation to the Local Government Funding and Financing, some of our commenters, including me. might like to do some thinking and put in a submission while there is time. Before 15 February.

      • Macro 7.1.2

        I think I understand what BM is on about here, and yes he is right wrt placing limits on local authorities borrowing to finance pie in the sky projects such as lavish sport centres that are to be funded on the never never (ie future rate payers). Projects which are all nice to have, but which come at the cost of more basic infrastructure and services. I live in Thames and there is a very sad history here. Thames council had borrowed heavily just prior to the Depression on some massive developments. However with the Depression and the massive drop in the price of gold the mines closed, and virtually the whole town lost its stream of income. Many people were unemployed, the town was essentially bankrupt. The incoming mayor in 1931 saw that there was no way the council could continue to operate as there were next to no rates coming in. He went to parliament and put the matter to the PM. Thames was placed in administration from then until 1947. We still have infrastructure around the town that is way below standard, (and I have 2 plates and 23 screws in my shoulder and upper arm as a result to prove it).
        Its not just about rate hikes – its about making sure that councils in the future are not overly saddled with debt.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          There’s “spending limits,” which is what I understood BM to be talking about and thoroughly unnecessary at the council level whatever your feelings on tight vs loose fiscal policy are, and then there’s cost-benefit analysis being done properly on big spending. Definitely in favour of the latter, ideologically opposed to the former as it tends to end up simply strangling spending on necessary infrastructure rather than stopping the stupid-but-sexy projects, but I agree there’s an argument for debt ceilings in local councils given that unlike central government they can’t set fiscal policy in a way that makes them unnecessary. (Unless you’re willing to have central government bail out local government, ofc)

          That said, debt limits and spending limits should really be guides that are followed in good faith, not hard rules. I find this shit works best when voters are actually informed about it and engaged, but we still haven’t really managed that given how that ridiculous stunt of Joyce’s played out, for instance.

    • millsy 7.2

      So closing down pools and libraries and selling parks then?

  7. Exkiwiforces 8

    Return democracy to ECAN’T for starters, then return the CHCH Bus routes back to CHCH City Council control and a whole Government review of Public Transport requirements with the Canterbury region which must include InterCity Rail from Springfield to the West, Amberley to the Nth, Ashburton/ Methven to the Sth for starters and Lyttelton to the East. With future plans to Southbridge via Lincoln University and Sth to Timaru.

    Sort out the water as there is far to much dairy farms on the plains atm with its poor soils, dry climate in the summer along with its dry cold climate in the winter and the long term a effects into leeching the water aquifers which effect the ability to supply safe drinking water for town supply and long term health effects as well.

    No Rugby Ground unless it’s a multi user Ground for all outdoor like league, football (FA) Cricket (one dayers and the hit and giggle) rock concerts etc. Must not be solely managed by CRU or NZRU for that matter or they fund it themselves.

    • Matthew Whitehead 8.1

      Remember, I’m asking for issues we should discuss. If you have an opinion, that’s fine, but there should be some room for debate here. 🙂

      eg. How do we best restore total democracy to Canterbury’s Regional Government?

      What are councils’ plans for water regular given poor soil quality, dry climate, and pollutants leeching into water aquifers?

      How do you plan to equitably share access to public facilities so that Cricket and Rugby don’t dominate local sports areas and parks?

      All those build in your opinions but ask open-ended questions we could pose even to someone like Simon Bridges or David Seymour and not sound like we’re being biased.

      • Exkiwiforces 8.1.1

        Sorry Matthew,

        I went from nought to M. 10 seconds on my local body policy concerns with the Canterbury and Greater CHCH. If my body and mind weren’t so ****ed atm, I would head home and stand for public office.

        I’m a little bit pissed of that CRU and it’s national body the NZRU somehow expects the CHCH ratepayers to pay for its own footy stadium at the expense of other major outdoor sporting codes for their own use. CHCH has so many open parks that when I played Football (FA) or Cricket under Ged O’Connell and Paul Corllis, we never had a problem with other park users unlike the today with me me generation who seem to think they can do whatever they like now regardless on what’s happening on some parks/ open spaces these days.

        ECAN is such a bloody mess now and thanks the “No Mates Party”. Water and Transport is two of the biggest issues that both the City and Rural ratepayers don’t want to make major long term changes as they so focus in short policy at the expense of the environment and the wellbeing of its citizens especially IRT CC.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          I actually submitted on the size and shape of the ECAN wards despite being up in Wellington, basically saying that they’re rubbish and need to start again, and recommending that they could do so by increasing the number of Councillors in some wards and lowering the number in others, without actually changing the boundaries at all. (which they had apparently determined as a red line they wouldn’t cross)

          The absolute daft thing is that the original proposal for restoring democracy was actually much fairer in terms of the ratio of representatives to population, but the local Labour party got involved and complained that the least populated district required an additional councillour, and of course they made that change without considering the overall balance of representatives to population would then be thrown off in all the other districts, effectively gerrymandering a majority of irrigation-friendly, mostly rural councillours in a majority, environmentally conscious urban area.

          I also gave them a good telling off for ruling out reform of the voting method before a council had been democratically elected and demanded they reconsider the issue at the time.

          If they get their exemption to hold elections under the unfair model they’re proposing, I’d absolutely say you should hound all the candidates with how soon they’ll be changing the wards or number of councillours to balance out the region within the EC’s guidelines, whether they’ll consider reforming the voting system from an undemocratic ward-based FPP system, and of course, whether they’ll go back to a reasonable environmental standard on water approvals.

  8. Dennis Frank 9

    I’d like to see councils prioritising resilience design for local governance. I don’t care who campaigns for it. All candidates doing so would be helpful.

    Long-term thinking. Providing for intergenerational equity. Not just being reactive to climate change, but factoring in economic consequences of excessive national dependency on foreign trade. The basic idea is to build bioregional sustainability. If local communities become anchored in a matrix of resilient economic systems then the social systems will become more reliable and culture will trend healthier.

    I realise this will only happen when folks acknowledge the need to do better – a shift that requires opinion leaders to admit the fragility that neoliberalism has produced and suggest replacing it with a narrative based on resilient thinking and how to design for it.

    • Matthew Whitehead 9.1

      Awesome, and all stuff that’s pretty applicable nationwide so ripe for people to steal, err, I mean share. 😉 Do you have any local issues particular to your own area as well that you’d like your candidates to discuss?

      • Dennis Frank 9.1.1

        Well, for New Plymouth the obvious issue is the transition away from the petrochemical industry. Oil-pumping machines were a feature of Ngamotu Beach when I grew up here in the fifties, so the dependency has deep roots. Only left one remaining since they went off-shore – non-operational I suspect, a residual icon.

        I’ve only been back two years, so not immersed in local politics, and by nature a global thinker I’m the least-suitable person to get involved! I just offered the general notion because it loomed in importance when I was in the Green Economic Policy Working Group drafting our policy (’91-’94).

        • Dennis Frank

          This morning I noticed this on Stuff, by Neil Holdom, our mayor: https://www.stuff.co.nz/taranaki-daily-news/news/109665745/a-fundamental-change-in-the-way-we-power-our-economy

          “2019 will be the defining year for the Coalition Government as the investment and business communities watch to see whether they are prepared to match the bold rhetoric and transformational policy with the significant intellectual capacity and scale of funding required to actually make the Just Transition happen.”

          “It was heartening to see investments in the Just Transition to underpin climate change policy made the top five of the leaked budget priorities for the 2019/20 budget, given to date the Government has invested a mere $100 million in the Greens’ clean energy investment fund.”

          “2050 seems a long way off but, in terms of reinventing an economy, is a very tight timeframe and Taranaki, as the anchor of New Zealand’s current energy infrastructure, will be ground zero for the Just Transition.”

          He notes that “little has been written about what a net carbon zero 2050 Aotearoa will actually look like. Much of the work done in New Zealand in this area has been by the Productivity Commission and Vivid Economics.”

          A good point, this. Since the PM declared the target, follow-through has been via James Shaw’s nationwide consultation process, and subsequent design of legislation by public servants, all of which has been invisible to most kiwis. What is missing is high-profile envisioning of the transition, which is how to get the public on board, via seepage into culture driven by media discussion.

          “What we are talking about is a fundamental change in the way we power our economy. A shift that will drive a massive reduction in our use of high energy density fuels like coal, oil, petrol, diesel and gas and at the same time convert most of that demand to electricity, requiring tens of billions of dollars of new electricity generation and some major technological breakthroughs in energy storage.”

          The big problem: how to provide all that extra electricity? Brainstorming the solution ought to be a public process, even though govt & industry experts will do the application. We need a plethora of designs competing for a short-list of optimal solutions, and a process in which systems designers, inventors, engineers, and scientists all get involved in a multi-disciplinary public context.

          • Matthew Whitehead

            I think the reason it’s all been a bit back-room is sadly the need to come up with something NZ First won’t fucking veto unreasonably. We already saw that compromize is necessary when the Greens managed to go beyond their confidence and supply agreement and get fossil fuel exploration banned everywhere except Taranaki, lol.

            I do think the best thing to do here is actually localize the politics- central govt should set the mandates and control its own departments and spending to make policy there make a difference, but making the transformation happen at a local level, and actually ponying up some funding for the more neglected regions would be the fairest way to do it.

            One thing I’d love to see us doing is onshoring as much recycling and manufacture from recycled products as possible.

            But yeah, you’ve got yourself a killer set of questions there for 2020, too- unfortunately this year we don’t get to ask Parliament anything, just local councils.

        • greywarshark

          Dennis Frank
          That comment on 9 was really good. I’m uplifting it to for my notes as I think it expresses so well things I have been tossing around in my head.

        • Matthew Whitehead

          Yeah, that’s a great one- not just how you transition away from carbon-based fuels, but how do you ensure that transition is just for the workers involved as well as the environment. A Green New Deal for regional NZ is absolutely something we need.

    • patricia bremner 9.2


    • greywarshark 9.3

      Dennis Frank
      I wonder if there is some way that this idea could go further from here, as there must be a number of people thinking along these lines? Any ideas Dennis. This is not what Matthew is focussing on here, but I wondered if it was possible to take this idea to another post and develop it someway?

  9. Macro 10

    What I want is for there to be a few less grey beards.
    I’m not sure if our Council is representative, but I highly suspect that it is. Not a young person in sight. Now the reason for this is because being a councillor is essentially a part time activity – yes there is some renumeration – but not enough for it to be a full time activity – and yet the demands on councillors and elected representatives is almost full time. I know because I live with one. This means that the only people who can possibly devote the necessary time to this important community task are those who are reasonably well off self-employed, or retired. This is hardly representative of the community they are elected to represent.

    • Matthew Whitehead 10.1

      So- how can we trust you to have fresh and relevant ideas when there’s been no renewal on the council and you don’t actually look like the population of the area?

      It’s definitely a question I could ask to the GWRC locally, but it’s VERY confrontative. 🙂

      And yeah, it’s a definitely a legitimate problem that Councillors don’t get paid enough, but unlike a National government, I’m not even sure if they can vote themselves a pay increase so it can be a legitimate full-time occupation that’s attractive to the kind of skilled people we need. I’ve heard this from a lot of progressive Councillors who I trust, and when left-wing radicals are saying “hey we need to pay this elite position a bit more so we don’t just have people with well-off spouses running for local government,” it’s a pretty convincing situation to me that a pay rise is genuinely needed, lol.

  10. Graeme 11

    An issue that’s going to be topical in Otago is the Regional Council’s progress on dealing with the expiry of Deemed Permits in 2021. These are old mining and other water rights which were granted in perpetuity that were extinguished by the RMA. In most cases these rights grossly over-allocate the catchment. They are mostly in Otago, but are pretty much all over the country as well.

    ORC developed a policy of catchment limits and a sort of first come first served approach to renewals within these limits. Needless to say this hasn’t gone down well with the agrarian sector, who have effectively forced ORC to go back to square one with the limits. Staff have been leaving in droves and it looks like the re-allocation process is going to turn to custard.



    My view is that it is beyond the regional councils and will require government intervention to achieve any solution that is going to be sustainable and not continue trashing the rivers. Unfortunately there’s been huge investment based on the over-allocated water rights so there are upset people.

  11. RedBaronCV 12

    Online voting- no but I would support an expansion of on the ground voting and lots of time for early voting (have booths were people go regularly – next to supermarket /railway station carparks ? and traveling booths that park up particularly in areas where voting turnouts are low. Extend hours of mobile booths so that voting can take place before or after work. It may cost but what price democracy) . How does day light saving fit with voting day ? Lots of fine evenings could improve voting. Have multi booths – eg Hutt votes can be placed in Wellington

    No to joining with a general election -too many issues – and the general election clouding the local one – also a chance to pass judgement on the government policy of the day to some extent.

    • Matthew Whitehead 12.1

      Fair enough, how would you propose we deliver greater security, lower costs, and greater engagement to local voting then if neither online voting nor piggybacking onto the national general election?

      There is definitely some issues with the general election being conflated with the local one, but that also gives a real advantage to parties with a cohesive local and central government philosophy that can hang together, especially as name recognition and other biases tend to flow down-ticket by assocation, too.

      Don’t talk to me about daylight saving, lol, you might not like the answer, I think changing timezones mid-year is an abysmal idea and we should pick one we’re comfortable with and stick with it the whole year around. I’m happy to compromize on it being +12:30 or +13:00 UTC though so long as we just don’t change the clocks, I think there’s no way it’s worth the sleep deprivation and accidents it causes to do that.

      • RedBaronCV 12.1.1

        daylight saving – no real view on this except to suggest that turnout may be affected depending which side of the line the voting days are.

        As to voting – I’m a yes on looking to greater security, more engagement but does it have to cost less? to me objectives 1 & 2 may justify a bigger cost so that groups aren’t shut out.
        Now I have to admit to a huge knowledge gap here – each council sets up and runs its own elections as they like? Or do they they do something else?

        Which brings up the next question – if they each do their own thing – why do we not just engage the general election machinery and give it a run in the local body year. Keeps it in trim – maybe councils could contribute some of the costs – not all – and maybe a perverse incentive – council pays less if they engage a greater % of voters – and taxpayers pay for the rest. “vote & keep the rates down” would make a great slogan.

        And the last thing I’d ask candidates? Would they support more & larger “no dog” signs at the popular summer beaches?
        If I see one more dog piddling on the grass at Scorching Bay while the owner watches……….

  12. RedBaronCV 13

    Other things I’d like to ask:
    Well rates are high compared to a lot of incomes/ rents.

    So i’d like to ask questions around council wage bills (CE wages can be extreme) but to reign in the income inequality have a % limit of the total wages bill for those over say $250k – make contracts pay the living wage and limit the number off high paid people that can be charged to through them. While I’d be happy to pay a skilled engineer rate I’m less happy to pay the same wage for the generic manager.

    and blue sky ? based on the sustainability above as an overarching plan – I’d like to see without the rates going up – the council with the ability to be in charge of all the infrastructure in the area – not just roads but telco, gas, power and even insurance ( but with the later being reinsured through EQC.

    At the moment we have households installing cylinders even though there is gas reticulation on the street – which is overall the best?

    We have lines companies owned overseas who don’t put money back into maintenance so it takes 5 days to get power back on in an inner city suburb.
    We could generate power locally (solar subsidy?) and supply other community users with the surplus.

    We could insure with the rates and have a government scheme that allowed the council to lay off the risk thr’ EQC to stop the private insurers taking a $1 billion in profit a year off the household sector.

    Getting some funding for bold initiatives – light rail to the aiport & beyond before the routes are too compromised by other transport.

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