City council candidates excluded by ballot from a Grey Power candidates' meeting have called the situation a disgrace, upsetting and laughable.
The lobby group representing the welfare and concerns of the over-50 age group is staging a Nelson city candidates forum at the Suburban Club tonight, but because of the large number of candidates it has limited them by ballot, Grey Power Nelson president Neville Male said.
He said because it was a private meeting, Grey Power was entitled to run it however it wanted.
"If we wanted to, we could handpick the candidates," Mr Male said.
There are 38 candidates standing for election to the council, including the four mayoral candidates. Mr Male said 27 had indicated they wanted to be involved but there was time only to cater for 18.
An email was sent to 13 candidates telling them they were not successful. Those who missed out will be invited to respond in writing within 24 hours of the meeting to the five questions to be asked, Mr Male said.
He declined to provide the list of successful candidates. The list of who missed out was provided by Matt Lawrey, who said it was the "biggest joke of the election campaign so far". He was one of two candidates excluded by the ballot, each having told Grey Power they would not be available.
John Armstrong is overseas, and will be for the entire campaign.
Candidate and councillor Ian Barker, who is also a member of Grey Power and former executive committee member, described the situation as undemocratic and "absolutely disgraceful". "I think something as important as electing our next council should not be left to chance of whether or not you win a ballot."
Grey Power Nelson's 9000-plus members were traditionally a powerful voting bloc.
Mr Male said he drew the ballot, assisted by a former "well respected member of the police", who he declined to name.
Candidate and Grey Power member Eric Davy, who is also a former policeman, was drawn in the ballot but was adamant he was not involved in either organising the forum or staging the ballot.
Mr Davy did not agree with the format of the meeting. He felt all candidates should have been given equal opportunity to speak.
"It's been organised without my knowledge but I know that legal advice was sought and because it's a private meeting a ballot is allowed, but I can see how there might be the perception it's a jackup," Mr Davy said.
Mr Barker said he was surprised to hear that the Grey Power president was involved in the ballot process, when anyone involved in the selection process had to be neutral. He was of the understanding that a lawyer had helped to draw it.
Mr Male was angry that people might think it was "some sort of jackup".
He said it was "not Grey Power's problem" if candidates were upset because the organisation was running the meeting as it saw fit.
"All we've done is ask candidates to address our members. How we do that is entirely our business."
Mr Barker was aware feelings were just as strong among some of the candidates selected to speak. He said a candidate who is tackling her first election had offered him half her time to speak. "It's not seen as kosher. This is actually weird."
He wondered if it was linked to his not renewing his Grey Power membership on time.
"I can't help but wonder. It's actually really upsetting, and disgraceful, to be honest. We should expect better than this," Mr Barker said.
WHO'S OUT OF THE FORUM: John Armstrong, Ian Barker, Trudie Brand, Ruth Copeland, Carl Horn, Matt Lawrey, Derek Nees, Graeme O'Brien, Colin Robertson, Kent Robertson, Robbie Siataga, Tim Skinner, Derek Shaw.
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