Serving govt not ratepayers


Troubles at the Otago Regional Council are coming to a head:

Council chairwoman Marian Hobbs said yesterday that since New Zealand entered a Covid-19 lockdown on March 26 — and seven councillors called for a 12-month re-evaluation of the council’s policy and finances, including the withdrawal and suspension of plan changes in progress and a review of its Regional Policy Statement — the council had been divided.

“It has been war,” Ms Hobbs said yesterday, confirming she believed some councillors wanted her out as chairwoman at the council.

“If I sound angry, I am. And I’m really not speaking as a chair — I’m speaking as a human being. Because watch this space, love, I’m liable to lose my position as the chair,” she said. . . 

The March 26 letter to Ms Hobbs was signed by Crs Michael Laws, Hilary Calvert, Carmen Hope, Gary Kelliher, Kevin Malcolm, Andrew Noone and Kate Wilson.

Several days later Ms Hobbs wrote to Environment Minister David Parker about issues arising from the letter.

When her communication was discovered through an Official Information Act request, what she wrote raised the ire of Federated Farmers, which responded. . . 

I was worried when she was elected chair and my worries have increased since then.

She appears to be acting on behalf of the government rather than ratepayers, many of whom agree with the seven councillors who have called for a 12-month pause.

Federated Farmers’ national body took issue in a statement this week with the council’s consultation process, saying the “actions taken by [the regional council] over the lockdown period were at best an inept attempt to ‘tick off’ to the minister that they had sufficiently completed appropriate public consultation on its proposed plan changes”.

Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies expressed “real concern” with the content of the letter and said the organisation was “assessing our options”.

There was a lack of governance at the council at present, he said, which was problematic.

“It’s not the ‘staff’ giving direction or strategy, it’s the governance. And the governance needs to be strong about that, and at the same time that strategy needs to be Otago focused and driven — not other people’s,” he said. . . 

The Council must carry out its statutory roles but councillors are elected to represent the people, not the government.

Cr Calvert yesterday said she was concerned that Ms Hobbs was substituting her interpretation of the views of the Government “for the views of our Otago ratepayers”.

“She is prepared to attempt to overthrow the representation of the people of Otago by asking whether the minister would consider putting in a commissioner if the vote doesn’t go her way.

“Those who elected us deserve better than that.”

Asked to comment on Ms Hobbs’ assertion there were councillors who wanted her out as chairwoman, Cr Calvert said the “crucial question” was how many councillors that was.

“At the end of the day, if you don’t retain the confidence of the majority of your fellow councillors, it’s time for somebody else to take a crack at being the chair.”

Some former MPs can make the transition to local body office and put partisan politics aside.

From what has been reported, Hobbs has not and it would be better for the council, and the region, if councilors succeed in replacing her.



Departing with dignity


Politicians need confidence and with that can go a fairly high self-regard which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

However, it can be a problem if their assessment of their own ability isn’t shared by other people and that is often demonstrated when parties announce their lists.

The only thing that really matters in a list place is whether or not they’ll be in parliament – and if they’re going to hold or win an electorate then it doesn’t matter at all.

Unfortunately not all candidates see this and take their list place personally, regarding it as a boost or insult to their ego.

It isn’t. It’s the reality of politics and if they feel undervalued they should breathe deeply and take a lesson from Hilary Calvert. She has worked as a volunteer for her party, put herself forward as a candidate in successive elections and disrupted her life to become a very short term MP.

In spite of that, and no doubt with good reason, the Act board decided she wasn’t wanted on the list for the upcoming election.

She could have had a hissy fit but she hasn’t:

Act New Zealand MP Hilary Calvert was philosophical yesterday despite being dumped from the party list for November’s election less than a year after entering Parliament.

“I’m happy and fully supportive of the decisions the board has made.”

Her parliamentary career will be short and hasn’t been stellar.

But at least she’s got the good sense to keep any feeling of being badly done by to herself. 

In doing so she’ll be departing  with her dignity intact and has provided a good example for others to follow.

Fortune favours the bold


It’s looked more like a hostile takeover than a leadership bid. But Virgil was right, fortune favours the bold and Don Brash’s unorthodox challenge might succeed:

Don Brash looks certain to become the new Act leader, with the party’s newest MP, Hilary Calvert, switching sides yesterday after a private meeting in Dr Brash’s Auckland apartment.

A vote could be held at the next caucus meeting on Tuesday, but if Mr Hide accepts he has lost majority support to the former National Party leader, he could resign earlier.

The adage that any publicity is good publicity doesn’t apply to internal ructions in political parties.

If Brash really does have the numbers then the best thing Hide can for do for Act is resign the leadership and hope a new leader can drag the party out of the doldrums where it’s been mired for months.

Update: Hide is to make an annoucnement at noon:

Embattled ACT leader Rodney Hide will make an announcement on his future with the party at midday today.

Sources close to 3 News political editor Duncan Garner say it is believed he will resign as leader, paving the way for Don Brash to take over..

He is expected to hold onto his ministerial portfolios.

Giving up the leadership would be best for the party.

Holding on to his portfolios which also means staying on as an MP is sensible. There’s nothing to be gained by triggering the expense of a by-election this late in the electoral cycle.

P.S. A reader emailed to tell me the comments for this post had been disabled earlier. I’ve no idea how that happ but have ticked the boxes to enable them again.

Another Clark for Labour


Selwyn College warden David Clark has been selected as Labour’s candidate for Dunedin North.

He has previously worked as a Treasury analyst and as an adviser to Labour list MP David Parker, also of Dunedin.

 Big News points out that four of the candidates who contested the seat at the last election will be in parliament after the recess:  Pete Hodgson (Labour), Michael Woodhouse (National), Metiria Turei (Greens) and Hilary Calvert (Act).

Clark has been seleted because Hodgson is retiring, Dunedin North is bright red so the new candidate’s chances of becoming the next MP are high.

 Given Act’s performance, Calvert’s seat in parliament is more precarious.

Dedication to the cause


The ODT reckons Act is rearranging deck chairs on a political Titanic.

The woman coming in to help bail out the party after David Garrett walked the plank is Hilary Calvert of Dunedin.

Ms Calvert was a sole practice lawyer, specialising in property law, until recently. . .

. . . “I guess lawyers always find their way into Parliament partly because they care a lot about the structure of society and how it’s run and partly because they understand the laws and things a bit differently,” she told NZPA last month.

She left law to get into something more community focused and had been thinking about what to do, Ms Calvert said.

Parliament would be a good option — “that certainly counts as a serious community commitment”.

It also counts as dedication to the cause because it’s probable that she’ll be disrupting her life for what could be a very short term position.

Act’s chances of still being in parliament at all after the next election aren’t great and if the party survives it’s likely to have fewer than its current quote of five MPs.

Last on doesn’t necessarily mean first off, but Ms Calvert has only a few months to earn a higher place on the list and that would mean leap frogging other MPs. Unless someone steps aside voluntarily that would mean even rougher seas for the party.

Garrett going


RadioNZ reports that David Garrett has quit the Act Party.

Radio New Zealand understands that if Mr Garrett is ejected from the ACT caucus he won’t go without a fight and is likely to stay on as an independent MP.

However, Midday Report says he’s taking two weeks off to consider his future.

Qutting the party is the best thing he can do for Act but I can’t see how he can continue in parliament as an independent.

The next person on Act’s list in Hilary Calvert of Dunedin.

iPredict has a contract on this possibility.

Bowscawen Act candidate for Mount Albert


Act list MP John Bowscawen has been selected as his party’s candidate to contest the Mount Albert by-election.

I doubt that even he believes he could win but if he did then, as Kiwiblog explains,  Hilary Calvert, number six on Act’s list would come in to parliament to replace him.

If National list MP Melissa Lee was selected as the candidate and won the next on her party’s list, Cam Calder, would enter parliament and if the Green candidate,  list MP Russel Norman , won the seat then the Greens would get a 10th MP from the list.

With any of these scenarios the party which won the seat would also get an extra list MP and have a total of one more MP than they do now, as they would if a candidate who wasn’t already in parliament on the list won the seat.

If a Labour list MP stood and won then the next one on their list, Judith Tizard, would enter parliament but since no list MPs are standing if their candidate wins they keep the seat but wouldn’t get anyone else on the list and either way they finish with the same number of MPs as they have now.

However, if their candidate lost the seat Labour would not be entitled to another list MP so have one fewer MP than they do now.

The National-led government has a comfortable majority so that wouldn’t make any difference to the balance of power this time. But if the government and opposition numbers were very close a gain of an MP for one and a loss for the other, increasing the difference between them by two, could be significant.

I understand that once a list MP is in parliament s/he keeps her/his seat even if a by-election win gives her/his party one more MP than the list vote at the general election entitled them too.

I also understand why a list MP winning a seat his/her party held allows another list MP in because that retains proportionality.

But I don’t understand why a list MP winning a seat her/his party didn’t hold, which maintains proportionality, entitles the party to another list MP while a party which lost a seat isn’t entitled to another list MP in replacement when both scenarios upset proportionality.

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