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No love for candidates at 'speed voting' event

Speed dating is often the preserve of the desperate and so it was at the University of Canterbury last week.

However, these desperate were not dateless, rather, they were about 50 of Christchurch’s council and community board candidates.

The University’s Department of Politics hosted a “speed voting” evening, aimed at getting as many of the candidates as possible in one place, to share their vision for the city to potential voters.

Candidates were given only two minutes to speak, which isn’t time to say much more than buzzwords and platitudes.

Given these constraints, it was the little things that stood out. Whether or not the candidates had actually answered the question. Whether or not the candidates had prepared and practiced their spiel. Whether or not they had got it down to two minutes in length.

Many had not, including mayoral contender Paul Lonsdale, appearing because he’s also running for council in the Hagley-Ferrymead ward, who found himself cut-off mid sentence.

The event was spread across two of the university’s lecture theatres. In the larger one, volunteers used a tin can filled with coins to signal time up. In the smaller one, it was left to first year politics student Jaynes Gutierrez to shout at candidates: “TIME’S UP!”

Gutierrez said he did feel a bit bad about it, “especially when they were talking with a lot of sense”.

First dates are often awkward affairs and, at times, so was this.

In some sessions, the number of potential voters was barely more than the number of candidates.

By the evening’s final session, the crowd consisted mainly of volunteers from the university, candidates for the various wards, and journalists.

Candidates from the Pegasus-Burwood and Banks Peninsula wards made the trip in, despite knowing it was unlikely they’d get to address any of their voters.

Banks Peninsula council candidate Nuk Korako, who sat in on sessions throughout the evening, felt the weekday timing hadn’t helped.

“I wish that more people could have attended”

For those candidates who did, it was worth their time.

Councillor Aaron Keown said he’d “never seen an event like this” in the four campaigns he had been a part of, referring to having candidates from across the city all in one place.

Sometimes points are gained just by showing up.

_Andrew Voerman