Hoardings signal end of phoney war
Sunday was the first day of spring, but it was not the first flowers of the season that were sprouting but a whole lot of hoardings, as candidates sought to make their mark in the coming local body elections.
In some ways this sea of smiling faces signals the end of the phoney war for the election campaign, particularly for the mayoral contest, where most of the interest traditionally lies.
In the era of social media, you might be excused for wondering if something as old-fashioned as a hoarding has any impact, but there is some scientific evidence the repeated sight of a particular face leaves a subliminal effect on the mind of the viewer. Certainly people want to know what a candidate looks like. Otherwise the only real way to get information to voters is in the voting papers, the meetings organised by different organisations and a special feature being published by the Gisborne Herald. Old hands in the local body game also say it is worthwhile to be seen at as many community events as possible. Look for an influx then at the farmers’ market and sports events.
Getting people to vote in local body elections has long been a disappointing experience for Local Government New Zealand. A change to postal voting has not had anything like the desired effect. In the 2016 elections, only 43 percent of eligible voters in New Zealand exercised their right to vote. The figure in Gisborne was slightly better — 48.5 percent voted in 2016, while the highest recent figure here was 54.6 percent in 2010.
A strong mayoral contest would hopefully bring that percentage higher, and it will be interesting to see what level of support Ross Meurant attracts as a completely new candidate, and whether he will take votes off Mayor Rehette Stoltz or district councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown.
The voting papers are due to be sent out between September 20 and 25, with the last day to enrol being October 11, the day before voting closes at midday.