A nonsense local election petition

The Herald reports:

A court date has been set to hear a Petition for Inquiry lodged by failed mayoral candidate into the recent Lakes Council election.

The hearing will start at 10am next Thursday, November 17 in the Rotorua District Court.

Under section 95 of the Local Electoral Act a Notice of Intention to oppose the petition may be filed by any candidate or any 10 electors.

Dr Macpherson, who finished second behind Steve Chadwick by 2863 votes in last month’s mayoral race, filed the petition on Friday.

He has demanded an inquiry into the conduct of the council’s chief executive Geoff Williams during the election and is seeking the election result be declared void and a new election held.

In a media release at the time, he said: “It is with the utmost reluctance that I have taken this possibly unprecedented step.”

His petition contains the claim that Mr Williams’ conduct during the election was biased in favour of Mrs Chadwick and some incumbent councillors and was “therefore unfair on the other candidates”. It claims Mr Williams’ actions affected the result of the election.

In the seven-page petition, Dr Macpherson states Mr Williams had a duty to act fairly and without bias.

It refers to the council-commissioned Community Satisfaction Survey 2016 dated June 30, which was released publicly by the council on October 26 – after the election.

The petition claims the survey findings were adverse to the interests of the mayor and “the incumbent power bloc councillors” – who he lists as Dave Donaldson, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Karen Hunt, Janet Wepa, Charles Sturt, Trevor Maxwell and Tania Tapsell.

This appears to be a nonsense petition with no chance of success. Claiming a different result if a survey had been released earlier is not going to convince a court to throw out the election.

And what was the difference between the 2015 and 2016 surveys. Well from his own petition:

residents’ approval of council decisions and actions trended down from 70 per cent in 2014 to 50 per cent in 2015, and to 49 per cent in 2016

Oh my God. A 1% drop in approval. Cancel the election.

residents’ ratings of the mayor and councilors’ performances as ‘very good/ fairly good’ trended down from 61 per cent in 2014 to 44 per cent in 2015, and to 39 per cent in 2016.

And a 5% drop. Again it is nonsense to claim that publishing of this survey at an earlier date would have changed the results.

There may be legitimate grounds to criticise the CE for not releasing it earlier. But that is different from claiming it materially impacted the election.

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