Morrison: Campaigning was tiring, council not very constructive, STV killed turnout, happy to be gone

Failed Wellington mayoral candidate and ex-Onslow-Western ward councillor John Morrison talked to The Wellingtonian editor and old cricket bro Joseph Romanos in what seems to be his first post-election loss interview.

A relatively boring interview (probably why it was placed so far back in the paper)  it could be summed up by “Morrison: Campaigning was tiring, council not very constructive, likes doing things, STV killed turnout, happy to be gone”.

Here are the bits about his campaign and career on council:

Why did you become a city councillor?

I was irritated about what was going on with sports fields in Wellington, and charges for teams etc. When I complained, I was told I should get on council and do something about it.

Did you know much about how council ran?

When I look back, I knew nothing. I had a chat with [mayor] Mark Blumsky. He told me it was dead easy – the odd meeting and you earned 40 grand. When I got on I was a bit bewildered for a start by the magnitude of the bureaucracy.

You served under three mayors. How do you rate them?

Kerry [Prendergast] was the best. She had a good fix on economic matters and could get things done. Blumsky came along in the 1990s, when Wellington was struggling. He was a pretty upbeat personality and helped Wellington, though he got a bit carried away with the photo opportunities. I think the mayoralty should have a degree of dignity. Celia [Wade-Brown] and I had opposite views. She was heavily influenced by the Greens, who seem to have a philosophy of stopping things. I like to get things done.

Why did you run for mayor?

We’d had three years under Celia. I believed Wellington desperately needed some initiative, vibrancy and impetus. I’d got some of my projects finished, like the artificial pitches, the Khandallah Town Hall, upgrading the Basin Reserve, the ASB Sports Centre, and was proud of some big sports matches I helped to tee up here – the World Cup football qualifier, the AFL match and the Warriors. But overall, there had been too much talk around the council table, and too little action.

What did you think of the mayoral campaign?

It was bloody tiring. We had nearly 30 mayoral debates. It was ridiculous. If two people got together and decided they wanted a debate, they could apparently schedule one, and we’d all turn up. In the end, I could have delivered my opponents’ speeches for them.

Did you campaign well?

I gave it my best shot. There were a couple of glitches and I wasn’t happy with the way I was portrayed at times, but you have to take what’s handed out to you. I ran to give people a genuine alternative and it was pretty close.

The voter turnout was low.

Sixty per cent of people don’t vote. Maybe it’s the STV voting system. It makes the Duckworth- Lewis system in cricket seem straightforward. I feel voting should take place on one day and there needs to be a mechanism for online voting.

How disappointing was it to lose?

I really wanted to win and had an official week of being cheesed off. Then I just go on with my life. It’s a relief to be off council. I was there 15 years and it’s not a very constructive atmosphere. I feel good about some of the challenges ahead of me.

Good luck to him with his new call centre career and his future.


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