This article was first published in the April 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine. Shared with permission.
In my experience, potential candidates come at the idea from one of two perspectives: externally driven and internally motivated. These are not mutually exclusive.
1) It’s late summer 2016 and the potential candidate has found themselves at a BBQ, golf club, church or work, and “a number of people” are saying to them:
“You should stand for the council. You’d be so good at it – not like the self-serving / idiotic / stupid / useless / wasteful / ill-disciplined [insert the appropriate offending human characteristic here] people currently running the place.”
“You know all about trees / roads / running a business / events / marketing / planning / the RMA / building / community groups / parking / development [insert your own specialty topic here]. You should stand for the council. Lots of us support your thinking. We’d vote for you.”
“The council never listens to us but, if you got elected, you’d represent the retired / youth / migrant / artists / developers / greenies / accountants /ratepayers / new mums / anti-fluoride / dog lovers [insert own specialty interest group here] and make things happen for us.”
2) The potential candidate has been involved for several years in a progressive community or business activity (usually one that intersects with the council in some way) and they are wondering how much more could be achieved by being inside the tent rather than being on the outside.
This is usually how the advice-giving goes…
Here are some questions to honestly answer, some things to think about and then some homework.
Once you’ve answered, thought about and completed these, come back and we’ll have another chat.
- What would you be standing for? (As opposed to standing against.)
- Who are you standing for? (While you probably already know a group of people who would love for you to represent them, will you also be able to represent people whose views are different?)
- What specifically do you want to achieve for the city / district / region? (Your vision.)
- What are your bottom lines / non-negotiables? (Not just the things that make your blood boil but also the things that might limit your ability to maintain an open mind.
And this is the homework I give them
Read (not skim) council / committee agendas from the previous 12 months in the library. This serves two purposes: it gives you an actual visual of the amount of reading required, and it gets you to hang out in a council facility (many potential candidates have never even set foot in a library or a public toilet for that matter).
Meet with at least two of the sitting elected councillors – ones you wouldn’t normally talk to – and ask them: “What have you achieved since you were elected?”
Read the purpose of local government and parts 1-4 of the Local Government Act 2002 (as well as the relevant clauses and sub-clauses.
Google all the Acts of Parliament that control local government delivery, services and activities (there are 21 of them).
Watch six back-to-back episodes of Neighbours at War in one sitting. And sometimes, they come back for that chat…
Things To Think About