Wellington Scoop

A damp night in the Aro Valley

Photo: Rose Campbell

by Rachel Pommeyrol
Monday night in the Aro Valley Community Centre. The room was full before the meeting began.

Everyone wanted to see the seven candidates for Wellington Central who were sitting next to the stage. Six men, one woman. From left to right: Andy Foster for New Zealand First; Gayaal Iddamalgoda, independent; MP Grant Robertson for the Labour Party; MP James Shaw for the Green Party; Nicola Willis for the National Party; Geoff Simmons for the Opportunities Party, and Michael Warren for ACT.

But this election event has nothing to do with the usual formulas.

MC Bryan Crump looks more like a humorist than the moderator of a debate. “Seven points of view tonight… Certainly more than seven points of view actually”. To control the candidates, bells ring and water pistols splash when they exceed their 30-second allocation. Many shirts became wet.

Photo: Rose Campbell

Even so, some main issues were touched on by the candidates, thanks to questions from the audience – housing in Wellington, demography, immigration, poverty, education, rivers, carbon emissions. Recent political headlines were recalled – Metiria Turei’s resignation, Winston Peters being overpaid, Gareth Morgan’s update on the “lipstick on the pig” expression.

Some of the best questions were asked by children from Te Aro School, who didn’t hesitate to water the candidates to silence them.

In the packed room, where exclamations gushed from corner to corner and even from outside, some candidates managed to express their voice, while others just seemed to be impatiently waiting for the end of question time.

To end the debate, the ultimate question: who would you vote for, if you couldn’t vote for yourself? Michael Warren said he would vote for Nicola Willis. Nicola Willis, Grant Robertson and Geoff Simmons said they’d vote for James Shaw. James Shaw and Andy Foster said they’d vote for Grant Robertson. And Gayaal Iddamalgoda would vote for himself because he wouldn’t have any other votes.

Photo: Rose Campbell

This unique event put politicians and people on an equal scale. And as at a family gathering, there was the uncle who didn’t want to hear what the younger people were saying, the aunt who didn’t accept her mistakes, the children who desperately wanted to be heard, the cousin who’s always a bit strange, and the dad who considers that immigration is the cause of all political problems. But they all know how to avoid arguments: don’t talk about politics during the meal.

Most of the time most speakers looked as if they wanted to avoid talking about politics, so they talked about many other things. The meeting didn’t seem to be structured to make them speak about policies (in only 30 seconds!!) but to entertain people and thereby to make them interested in the election. On this count, it was a success.

Rachel Pommeyrol has come from France to work at Scoop during the New Zealand election.

Toby Morris on another Wellington Central election meeting


  1. Mary M, 30. August 2017, 13:00

    Almost no talk of policies – a fake water gun democracy preamble to a desert of a social play of “pseudo equality.”

  2. Asterix, *not* the Gaul!, 31. August 2017, 21:54

    .. but great radio on RNZ. Kudos to the technical team.