Newcomers Bob Upchurch and Cath Handley came first and third respectively with Shirin Brown fourth. Walden, Leader of Team Walden (aka Waiheke Voice) dropped over 600 votes to come second while Team Walden’s Meeuwsen scraped into fifth place.
Walden’s favoured running mate Becs Ballard has been dumped for two key reasons. She failed to deliver on her promise of a swimming pool within three years and didn’t bother to do even a smidgen of the work expected of a salaried Board member.
On the face of it, Shirin Brown now holds the balance of power. Walden and Meeuwsen will not want either top polling Upchurch or Handley in the Chair. If Upchurch and Handley want to keep their considerable support base on side they will not even entertain the thought of Walden back in the chair and Meeuwsen for that position is even more of a non-starter.
That leaves Brown. She has felt the full force of the bully boy tactics of Team Walden over the past three years and hasn’t liked it one little bit. Recently, she has been building bridges wherever she can in the hope of working with more agreeable board members and, of course, getting the position of Chair, the only one that really counts on the Board.
The next few days will be fascinating. Handley is by far the best person for the job of Chair but is a political newbie and lacks Council experience. Despite being the top polling candidate, it is doubtful that Upchurch will want what is sometimes a poisoned chalice. In addition, the nonsense perpetrated by Denise Roche in 2010 about deserving the chair because of her higher vote won’t suit some wannabes this time round. The reality is that it is the Board as a whole that decides on the Chair. The number of votes cast for each candidate by the electorate is irrelevant and the only criteria should be – the best person for the job.
This election result is also another blow for the pipe dreams of a go-it-alone (we’ll pay for everything ourselves) independent Waiheke. The majority of the Waiheke Local Board is no longer in favour of the move.
Naturally I am disappointed not to be on the Board but my role as media watchdog has been pivotal in focussing attention on the culture of waste, cronyism and lack of accountability that has been the hallmark of the Walden era. I have no doubt that I have made a difference and that is what is important to me.