The Dim-Post

November 11, 2011

Aro Valley meet the candidates evening: 7200 seconds of democracy

Filed under: Politics — danylmc @ 7:44 am

The road to the Treasury benches leads through the Aro Valley. This tiny bohemian community nestled in the foothills south of Wellington City is a vital battleground for winning the hearts and minds of New Zealand voters. So every three years, the Aro Community Centre forsakes its yoga classes and evening druid ceremonies, and hosts the notorious Te Aro Candidates Event.

7:00 PM. I arrive half an hour early. It is standing room only. The crowd could best be described as ‘a wretched hive of scum and villany.’ Disturbingly, there are many young people present. The event begins at 7:30, by which time the hall is packed beyond capacity, with dozens more people standing on a ledge outside the window peering in.

7:30 Jane O’Loughlin – the Aro Valley Community co-chair – introduces the candidates and pleads with the audience to ‘be kind’. She introduces the MC, Radio New Zealand host Brian Crump who is taking the evening off in the name of democracy. Crump is assisted by two dishevelled elderly men toting water pistols, with which they will soak candidates who talk for too long.

7:35 Introductory speeches.

First up is Gynn Rickerby from the Pirate Party, who has to speak first because he needs to go home and look after his daughter. He affects a pirate accent and explains that the Pirate Party has a terrible secret. ‘That secret is that we’re a serious party. Arrgggh.’ His policy is to reduce copyright to ten years. ‘Imagine,’ he implores us, ‘If every teacher had free access to ten year olds.’ He gets drowned out with laughter and then soaked with the water pistols.

James Shaw from the Green Party informs us he was born 175 meters from the Aro hall and that he wants to clean up New Zealands rivers. ‘Let the market decide,’ retorts a heckler. He also explains the Green Party plan to lift 100,000 children out of poverty. ‘What about the other 100,000?’

Reagan Cutting from the Libertarianz congratulates the audience for showing up ‘even though this isn’t the social event of the decade.’ ‘Pretty conforming suit, dude,’ sneers an audience member. Cutting warns about debt and explains, ‘You don’t get out of a hole by digging deeper.’ The audience demands to know if he’s a Flat Earther.

Crump announces that Alliance candidate Kelly Buchanan couldn’t make it tonight and sends her apologies. The crowd moans with sorrow and then someone cries, ‘Wait – who?’ They demand the Libertarianz candidate speak again.

Instead we get Laurence Boomert from the New Economics Party. We’re told he used to work for the ominous sounding ‘Bank of Real Solutions.’ Boomert yells out that ‘The old economics is done. It lead to the lights going out.’ So someone switches the lights in the hall out. Bommert is not deterred and continues, warning us about Wall Street. ‘If you turn society over to the wolves then you will get eaten, little lambs. The invisible hand ate all its fingers and is now the invisible stump!’

It is hard to tell exactly what Boomert stands for. He seems to oppose fiat currency, but is soaked with the water pistols before he can provide details.

Michael Appleby from the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party. If the role of Goblin King in The Hobbit is still uncast, Appleby would be a pretty good contender. He asks the crowd if they’ve ever smoked cannabis and a heckler assures him, ‘I’m high right now.’

Appleby is 72 years old and he’s been smoking cannabis for 64 years. (This seems incredible but my notes are very clear.)

Grant Robertson is the Labour candidate and the incumbent MP for Wellington Central. He explains that he’s one of the few candidates asking for our electoral vote. He opposes the fly-over and urges us to ‘vote for the real thing, not the imitation,’ while gesturing at National candidate Paul Foster-Bell, who does look an awful lot like Robertson.

Foster-Bell then speaks and insists he’s not an imitation – he’s the new and improved model. He asks for our party vote and the crowd shouts, ‘No!’ Then he launches into his election spiel: ‘The National government has invested in . . .’ But he’s downed out by cries of ‘Liar!’ ‘Sexy coal!’ ‘Where’s our bike track, bitch?’ Finally he sits down, defeated, while the crowd chants, ‘Double downgrade.’

Finally we get the ACT candidate, Stephen Whittington. He tries to warn us about some dire Labour policy, beginning, ‘Grant Robertson came out a couple of weeks ago . . .’ Robertson interrupts. ‘Can I just clarify that I came out twenty years ago.’ Whittington sets his teeth. ‘Grant Robertson recently said . . .’ The policy is to do with minimum prices for alcohol, which Whittington warns will lead to $70 bottles of gin.

8:00 Questions from the audience. An eight year old girl walks around the stage holding a New Zealand flag and receives the biggest cheer of the evening.

There’s a question about the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiation. The National candidate tries to reassure us his party would never do anything that wasn’t in the country’s interest, before he’s again drowned out by jeering. Someone outside the hall asks the candidates if Labour has any policies that weren’t stolen from the Greens, and the Green candidate leaps up to the microphone, grinning and ready to answer.

A teachers aide asks why only ESOL (international) students are exempt from national standards. ‘Doesn’t that disincentivise schools from taking on special needs children?’ The Legalise Cannabis candidate replies that if we legalise cannabis we’ll have more ESOL students.

The President of the Student Unions asks a question about student unionism (‘What will you do to save it?’). The ACT candidate replies with relish (‘Nothing!’).

A man in the back wants to know why Michael Appleby from Legalise Cannabis is the only candidate offering any sensible solutions. Michael Appleby is ‘happy to answer this question’, but the crowd suggests that ‘the man in the back is a plant.’ The man in the back has a follow-up question: ‘How will the other candidates grow the economy without developing the hemp industry?’

Question about same-sex marriage and adoptions. The Libertarianz candidate tries to make a point by asking ‘Did any gay people in this room eat gay lunch today?’, but his point is undermined when they all reply, ‘Yes!’ Grant Robertson burns the ACT on Campus hecklers by asking them about John Banks views on sexuality.

8:30. Short break in which ‘spicy punch’ is available for $2. There is some confusion about whether it would be exempt from GST under Labour. Then the discussion moves onto the electoral referendum. A pro-MMP campaigner called Oliver advocates for keeping MMP. James Shaw from the Greens supports him, warning us that ‘with FPP you get a bunch of white guys in suits running the country,’ which gets a bitter laugh from the audience.

The Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party supports Single Transferable Vote.

A question about party lists. Grant Robertson and Paul Foster-Bell will get in on the Labour and National lists, so why vote for them? Michael Appleby replies. He won’t be our electorate MP, so he wants us to vote for Grant, so he can replace Phil Goff as Labour leader, become Prime Minister and introduce cannabis reform. Grant Robertson is shaking his head and shouting something, but cannot be heard over the cheers and foot-stomping.

Question on climate change. The ACT candidate receives a huge cheer for admitting he believes in climate change. The candidate from the New Economics Party urges us to visit his web site which has resources to fight climate change that ‘the Greens cannot even imagine’. (The site is here.)

A question on how we can stop National from getting back into power and help Labour and the Greens win. Crump throws this question over to the National candidate, who is less than forthcoming on the subject. The New Economic Party derides the ‘evil corporate media’. The ACT candidate beseeches the ‘ten National supporters in the audience’ to vote for him. The Legalise Cannabis candidate stands up to speak but has forgotten the question.

Question: Should we feed the seven billionth person genetically modified food. The ACLP supports genetically engineered cannabis.

Final question. ‘Are Labour’s policies affordable?’

Answer: If we legalise cannabis . . .’

9:30. Final statements. The candidates are encouraged to ‘be creative.’

Legalise Cannabis candidate endorses Grant Robertson and anoints him Prime Minister.

Paul Foster-Bell recites a poem.

Libertarianz candidates begins, ‘You don’t like assets sales, do you?’ The ACT on Campus’ crowd all roar, ‘Yes!’ and he is thrown by the response, eventually telling the crowd to vote for him if they want cannabis legalised.

The New Economics Party candidate explains that he only had two hours sleep, and that he grew up on Boston Terrace and repeatedly ran away from home. He closes by thanking the crowd for invigorating him.

Grant Robertson reads out ‘Legend: a monologue,’ in which he warns that another term of John Key will lead to a country in which only Feelers songs play on the radio.

Stephen from ACT recites a poem attacking the other candidates. Sample verse. ‘What about Grant Robertson? About your social life he’s extremely worrisome.’

James Shaw from the Green party closes with a rap. Sample lyrics: ‘My name is James and I’m from Te Aro. I commute by bus and not by car yo.’

Alexandra (age eight) rewards all the candidates with pink medals, but snatches the Legalise Cannabis candidates’ back off him and runs away.


  1. Appleby is 72 years old and he’s been smoking cannabis for 64 years. (This seems incredible but my notes are very clear.)

    It’s just been on the radio: he actually said 40 years.

    But not to quibble. Thanks for this excellent and amusing report.

    Comment by Russell Brown — November 11, 2011 @ 7:59 am

  2. Sweet jezus, these fools want to rule the country
    My vote would have to go to Alexandra who seems to have been the smartest on the stage

    Comment by Raymond A Francis — November 11, 2011 @ 8:07 am

  3. Is substituting Barry for Brian Crump satirical?

    Comment by Stephen Judd — November 11, 2011 @ 8:14 am

  4. “…Sweet jezus, these fools want to rule the country…”

    I totally disagree, I think it is fabulous that politicians can be jeered, have water pistols fired at them, and generally engage in actual politics in a hall. it is the warp and woof of democracy – we could do with a lot more of it, and a lot less of contrived photo opportunities in shopping malls.

    At least it wasn’t the the 1968 Democratic National Convention, where Richard Daley famously shouted “”Fuck you, you Jew son of a bitch” to a speaker he didn’t like.

    Comment by Sanctuary — November 11, 2011 @ 8:27 am

  5. I should have added that this was both more entertaining and rhetorical flashes aside more informative than the equivalent article on Stuff.

    Comment by Stephen Judd — November 11, 2011 @ 8:37 am

  6. The radio made it sound like a 1st year university rally only stupider.

    Comment by — November 11, 2011 @ 8:48 am

  7. From what I have heard of meet the candidate meetings in Te Aro despite all the ridiculous stuff in this I find myself unable to disbelieve any of the events.

    Comment by Rob — November 11, 2011 @ 8:48 am

  8. Incidentally, I think the New Economics dude said, not, which would be this site:

    Comment by Tim Denee — November 11, 2011 @ 8:58 am

  9. Aro Valley really Bohemian? Not very much everyday Czech spoken there . And if we’re talking La Boheme style Bohemia, I thought that it was suffering fate of most such arty neighbourhoods and is being rapidly gentrified. Thanks for report. Beats your rivals at Compost in reportage

    Comment by Leopold — November 11, 2011 @ 9:09 am

  10. Speaking as a youngish person who’s never been to a meet-the-candidates meeting before, I did find it invigorating. I think the Legalise Cannabis dude stretched his joke on too far (he needs to learn from George:, but otherwise it was great.

    Comment by Tim Denee — November 11, 2011 @ 9:14 am

  11. As I remarked last night. The Aro Valley candidates meeting has been built up so much that it was bound to disappoint.

    Comment by Graeme Edgeler — November 11, 2011 @ 9:53 am

  12. I almost wish I was there (almost)

    Comment by kimshepherd — November 11, 2011 @ 10:10 am

  13. Brilliant, brilliant article. More please!

    Comment by CH101 — November 11, 2011 @ 10:25 am

  14. I’m hoping the Kilbirnie ‘Meet the Candidates’ session on Saturday will be just as amusing.
    Not holding my breath though.

    Comment by Gregor W — November 11, 2011 @ 10:27 am

  15. Hold on, you’re telling me this isn’t a satirical piece?!

    Comment by Phil — November 11, 2011 @ 10:42 am

  16. “Reagan Cutting” – is that name for real? Sounds straight out of my childhood of Margaret Thatcher masks and “God Save the Queen” – surely it’s in the same vein as Roger-nomics! 😉

    Comment by Kathryn Dick — November 11, 2011 @ 10:50 am

  17. “is that name for real?”

    Is his middle name ‘tax’?

    Comment by nommopilot — November 11, 2011 @ 12:58 pm

  18. Not the Aro Valley yet, but we’re building up to it!

    Comment by robertguyton — November 11, 2011 @ 10:59 pm

  19. This sounds just like the latest ‘Meet the candidates’ night in Riverton!

    Comment by Tabitha Willows — November 11, 2011 @ 11:04 pm

  20. another term of John Key will lead to a country in which only Feelers songs play on the radio.

    Gold. Thanks for this report.

    Comment by fibby — November 12, 2011 @ 7:14 am

  21. I would love to be able to attend this!

    Comment by Charlie-Jayne — November 12, 2011 @ 8:57 am

  22. I can’t think of a candidates debate I’ve been to this year which wouldn’t have been improved by the use of a water pistol. They should be compulsory for use whenever a candidate a) goes over time and b) goes off topic

    Comment by Amy — November 12, 2011 @ 11:28 am

  23. It was the best political meeting I have ever attended and so enjoyed your review of it. The Rongotai meeting Saturday was by comparison totally flatlining – do they put different additives in the water out there? I only went to hear Don Richards of which corresponds to our New Economics Party (thanks for link Tim) and also to Raf Manji on kim hill last sat not so much a prob with fiat currency per se but all money is created by private banks out of thin air as debt and charged unsustainably back to society at interest – its a great scam but is all falling apart.. as it must and there is no plan b – energy & resource issues are kind of impt too, cheers Laurence Boomert & Hat

    Comment by Laurence Boomert — November 13, 2011 @ 10:27 am

  24. Delightful! The Aro Valley I knew and loved some 30 to 50 years ago has not changed very much. More polite, wealthier, yes.
    Still vibrant, love it. I moved from Wellington nearly a decade ago , nice to know that subversives still exist in the Aro enclave.

    Comment by peterlepaysan — November 14, 2011 @ 7:54 pm

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