Now that we've got your attention... forget chocolate and vote

30 September 2019

Here’s an interesting little story to consider.

When we posted a chocolate bar giveaway on our NPDC Facebook page last week, the result was fairly impressive. Within three days the post had 550 comments. That’s online marketing code for “people seem to care about this”.

Just four days earlier, the controversial “Give a 💩, Vote Today” dropped on the same Facebook page. To date, despite being about the most controversial marketing campaign NPDC has ever run, it has attracted just 180 comments - expressing a range of sentiment, of course.

Now, this is by no means a conclusive scientific analysis, and we do understand free chocolate is a pretty big lure, but as a quick snapshot the picture is clear, and it begs the question: Wouldn’t it be nice if people cared as much about democracy, voting and their local government bodies as they did about a free bar of chocolate?

It’s sad that doesn’t seem to be the case, and also speaks volumes to the challenges faced when trying to attract people to vote.

People should care. NPDC is a $3.3 billion business, with 17 different business units. The scale of its operations is probably matched in the Taranaki region only by the District Health Board, Fonterra and the oil and gas industry.

From the minute someone wakes up in the morning  and makes a coffee, takes a shower, and drives to work, they’re using NPDC services. When they’re putting out the rubbish, or washing the dishes at night, they’re using NPDC services. When they’re out doing the fun stuff like going to a park, or a beach, getting a book from the library, watching their kids’ sport, catching a show, or heading to the pools, chances are high they’re enjoying NPDC-funded facilities and services.

Our operations cost about $155 million to run each year. That’s a lot of money, so what’s not to care about?

While we were saddened, we weren’t particularly surprised that a free chocolate bar attracted more attention than an election voting campaign – even a controversial one – after all we already know only 47% of people bothered to cast a vote in 2016. Less than half! How appalling!

Local government is relevant.

Everyone cares about something, and it’s almost certain that if that something they care about is located in or happens inside the New Plymouth District boundaries, that NPDC has an impact on it in some way.

Is it clean water, or community sport hubs, or airport terminals, or free entry at art galleries, or the state of our central city, or rural roads, or rubbish collection, or affordable rates?

It doesn’t really matter what issue someone cares about, what does matter is that the only way to have a meaningful say on it is by casting their vote.

Our “Give a 💩, Vote Today” campaign was provocative and designed to turn people’s heads. But what we really want people to do, now that we have their attention, is to think about what it is they care about, and cast their vote accordingly.

To help them with this, we ran a few other less risque chapters in our election campaign that may have missed people’s attention – they certainly attracted minimal comment.

To attract a wide range of diverse candidates, so people would be more likely to have voting options that appeal to them, we encouraged prospective candidates to “Make A Stand”.

To help people know more about the different candidates and where their values might align, we ran a series of “Know Your Candidate” ads, pointing people towards an online candidates directory, with a short bio, contact details, and links to online resources. You can find the candidate directory here.

And to make sure people understand our new voting system, Single Transferable Vote or STV, we have tried to make sure they understand it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. There’s more info about how to vote using STV for anyone still not sure about it.

Ultimately though, the onus is on the voter. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.

We urge people to care. We urge people to vote. To prove to us and to themselves that the chance of a free chocolate bar holds less sway than how an average NPDC rates bill of about $2300 per year is put to use.

You have until noon on October 12.

Give a 💩, Vote Today.

Someone putting a block of chocolate in a ballot box