Wellington Scoop

Mayoral candidates: making their plans visible, or not

With the local elections less than two months away, it’s time to look at the mayoral candidates and how good a job they’re doing of letting Wellington know about their exciting policies and revolutionary ideas. So settle back and relax for a journey into the wild world of electoral cyberspace.

The contenders in the mayoral race are:

Norbert Hausberg, Don Newt McDonald, Jenny Condie, Justin Lester, Conor Hill, Diane Calvert, Andy Foster, Andrew Cox, Ajay Rathod.

For each of them we’ll look at four different platforms on the basis that they cover most of the places where aspiring mayoral types would let us know how fabulous they and their policies are (sorry, Instagram followers). So that means the plain-old Internet, the planet’s surveillance platform of choice (Facebook), the pseudo-social media site for boring corporate types (LinkedIn) and the world’s preferred outrage-generator (Twitter). We may have missed some possible outlets – such as the DomPost letters to the editor page, maybe? But overall, we think any serious candidate should have at least some profile on one or more of these key cyberspace properties.

So how are they doing on the Internet and on social media? Let’s go find out!

Norbert Hausberg

On the web – No sign of a campaign page or anything much else, for that matter. The best we can find is some policy questions Norbert answered for Generation Zero when he stood for the regional council in 2016. Given the one-line answers, he doesn’t appear to be a forthcoming sort of chap.
On Facebook – Has a profile, although not with a picture so we’re still not sure what he looks like. No sign of his mayoral aspirations and there’s typically only a few posts per year, so no much to go on.
On LinkedIn – Norbert doesn’t appear to be on LinkedIn at all.
On Twitter – Norbert’s puppetry skills and workshops get occasional mentions – his mayoral run, not so much. Can’t seem to find him Tweeting in person.

Our verdict: Hardly a serious contender, but we suspect most of Wellington knew that already.

Don Newt McDonald

On the web – There’s some pages about Don, but we couldn’t find anything much by Don. And if you thought Norbert was a bit chatty when it came to Generation Zero’s election questions in 2016, you’ll be relieved to hear that Don didn’t respond at all.
On Facebook – Don says on his Twitter account that he has a Facebook profile, but we couldn’t find it. Given his tweets, more’s the pity.
On LinkedIn – Don doesn’t appear to have a profile, to no-one’s real surprise.
On Twitter – Don has more than 18,000 tweets and 300 followers to his name (@McDONewt) as he’s been a Twitter regular since 2010. If you want to get some insight into the stream of consciousness that is Don’s view of the planet, mathematics, spelling and so much more, we heartily recommend following the man.

Our verdict: What’s most interesting about Don and his quixotic run at the mayoralty is that his Twitter account is vastly more interesting and thought-provoking than some of the more serious contenders.

Jenny Condie

On the web – there’s a campaign website with information about Jenny, the ability to donate money, and a real focus on events. But there’s no apparent policy and the Blog Posts section where such things might be found is still marked “coming soon” … the election is only 8 weeks away, so no hurry, I guess.
On Facebook – Jenny has a campaign page which is moderately active, albeit a bit short on any actual policy stuff.
On LinkedIn – An up-to-date profile that (shock, horror!) mentions her mayoral campaign.
On Twitter – Avid Twitter user (@condie4council) with plenty of things to say and respond to.

Our verdict: Jenny looks to be running a real campaign, but with little policy substance to back up the very general statements about making Wellington a better place … just like almost every other candidate.

Justin Lester

On the web – Has an out-of-date website which appears to be from the 2016 campaign. The policies are either 3 years old or he’s achieved none of them since 2016, take your pick.
On Facebook – Up to date page with a steady flow of news and views. Nothing that even vaguely resembles policy or an election platform.
On LinkedIn – Moderately active, but the last post was about LGWM back in May. Again, few signs of policy.
On Twitter – Full-on Twitter addict (@Justin_Lester), heavily engaged with others. Little policy of note but plenty of smiles and daily interaction.

Our verdict: Much more style than substance, Justin seems to be working on the basis that being friendly and chatty is enough to get him re-elected, and that mere policy is a distraction from the more essential work of smiling at the camera.

Conor Hill

On the web – Has a website with actual policies! Pretty much the gold standard (so far) for this mayoral campaign, assuming that some of us care about what a putative mayor will do once elected – a theory Justin Lester is trying his hardest to disprove.
On Facebook – Conor Hill for Mayor has an active page and plenty going on. For policy stuff you’re pointed at his excellent website.
On LinkedIn – Has a basic profile page but there’s negligible content. It appears he’s not really a LinkedIn user.
On Twitter – Frequent Twitter user (@Fauxnamu) with plenty to say and plenty of interactions.

Our verdict: Conor deserves full marks for actually communicating the policies he cares about, in stark contrast to practically all the WCC incumbents.

Diane Calvert

On the web – Diane has a website but the last entry is on July 30 and her mayoral aspirations don’t even rate a blog post on her own site.
On Facebook – The last update was on June 22 when she changed her profile picture … again. Nothing about mayoral aspirations, policies, or anything political at all.
On LinkedIn – Has her CV and little else. No sign of recent activity.
On Twitter – Very active (@dianecalvertnz) and topical, but almost seems to be creating policy on the fly, in response to other people’s tweets.

Our verdict: Not trying very hard. Would probably accept the mayoral job if it fell in her lap, but she seems to be using a mayoral run as a way of lifting her profile as a councillor – and her online presence reflects this.

Andy Foster

On the web – Just like Justin Lester, he has a campaign page that hasn’t been updated. Unlike Justin Lester, Andy’s page is mess of a thing that looks like it was created in 1998 by a kid who was reading Websites for Dummies. However it does include four new media releases including the announcement of his 2019 candidacy, with a brief summary of policy issues.
On Facebook – Has a full campaign page (Andy Foster for Wellington) which is very active with day-to-day happenings, but no sign of any policy or platform. Another candidate on the “just trust me, I’m a nice chap!” bandwagon.
On LinkedIn – Technically he has a profile, but in reality he’s not a LinkedIn user.
On Twitter – Is being talked about on Twitter and by the Twitterati, but doesn’t appear to be on the platform himself. Or maybe he’s in stealth mode.

Our verdict: The leading contender for the “anyone but Justin” brigade, it seems like Andy is not short of ideas for what will happen if he becomes mayor – he’s just not yet going to much effort to share them with us.

Andrew Cox

On the web – A couple of mentions about the fact that Andrew is standing for mayor, but no campaign page or similar as far as we can tell.
On Facebook – Doesn’t appear to be on Facebook, either in a personal capacity or with a campaign page.
On LinkedIn – Andrew doesn’t appear to have a LinkedIn profile.
On Twitter – Or a Twitter profile.

Our verdict: If you thought it was impossible to actually disappear in this age of surveillance capitalism, along comes a stealth candidate in the form of Andrew Cox and proves us all wrong. He’s the closest the 21st Century has to an invisible man.

Ajay Rathod

On the web – A few pages mentioning Ajay but nothing written by him, as far as Google can find.
On Facebook – Has a Facebook page that notes he’s running for mayor, but the page appears to be about family and friends and life rather than politics.
On LinkedIn – Has a professional profile that doesn’t say anything about his mayoral aspirations.
On Twitter – There are a few Ajay Rathods on Twitter, but none seem to be our man.

Our verdict: Is clearly more committed to his mayoral campaign than Andrew Cox, but that doesn’t seem to be a particularly high bar to get over.

Overall, no-one – other than Conor Hill – is trying very hard on the Internet. None of the WCC incumbents have published more than a Tweet outlining their policies, and there seems to be an awful lot of style-rather-than-substance out there (Jenny Condie, we’re looking at you too). But the nature of democracy is that we have to pick winners, so here goes:

Best campaign presence – Conor Hill, no question. Although whether the policies, the pages and the tweets are going to get him elected is a different question.

Worst campaign presence – This should technically go to Andrew Cox for his sheer invisibility, but we’re going to give it as a joint award to Justin Lester and Andy Foster, both of whom have the capability and the time and the resources, and who should know better. If you can spend years-to-decades around the Council table and still can’t tell us what you intend doing once you’re elected mayor, then you’re treating us voters like mushrooms.

Most interesting campaign presence – Don Newt McDonald, hands-down. Read a few of Don’s tweets and you’ll never look at the world the same way again.

The real question is how much any of this will bear on the campaign.

Is it possible to get re-elected on the basis of a few tweets? Or defeat an incumbent mayor using the power of Facebook?

We’re about to find out.


  1. Diane Calvert, 21. August 2019, 10:50

    PCGM – feedback noted. My blog and plans for the city have all been updated onto my website now. Check them here http://www.dianecalvert.nz
    Before deciding to campaign, I carefully thought through whether I could do a better job as Mayor and whether I would offer anything different and better for Wellingtonians. This included thinking through a connected sets of priorities, plans and actions that I would undertake as Mayor. The outcome was YES and that is why I’m standing for Mayor and why I think I am the best candidate for the role and city. [Read also: seven promises to fix the buses.]

  2. Ian Apperley, 21. August 2019, 12:11

    More links here for those who want them, including all candidates.

  3. Mike Mellor, 21. August 2019, 16:02

    An excellent resource, Ian! Asking a lot, but would it be possible to extend it to GWRC candidates? I think there are 23 of them standing in Wellington…

  4. Regan Dooley, 21. August 2019, 16:05

    @ Ian Apperley. Very handy list, thanks. Shan Ng (@ShanSNg), Thomas Morgan (@ThomasTweeting) and Tracy Hurst Porter (@nztrayc) also have Twitter accounts

  5. Ian Apperley, 21. August 2019, 16:49

    Thanks team, yes Mike, I’ll find some time in the next couple of days.

  6. Hel, 21. August 2019, 20:14

    Yes disappointing start to the campaign and not much inspiring coming out of anyone yet. When the gold standard is really tin we are in trouble!

  7. PCGM, 21. August 2019, 21:49

    If you go back a few elections, most candidates would put up some kind of manifesto on the web that was there for all to see, for better or worse. These days, there’s a few media releases plus a pile of tweets and pictures of them and their pets on Facebook. Quite how we’re supposed to evaluate their capabilities to run the city from the resulting stream of consciousness on Twitter is anyone’s guess.

    I think most of the mayoral candidates this time around have made the decision to say as little as possible, and attempt to win the day on the basis of a charming smile and a pithy one-liner or two. And as much as I admire pithy one-liners, I’m not sure we should be handing out a $250k/year job on the basis of them.

    Showing up to the mayoralty without any policy does seem rather like showing up to the interview without a CV – which either smacks of arrogance or ineptitude, take your pick.