From $10 t-shirts to $10,000 radio promotions, Nelson’s four mayoral candidates collectively poured more than $55,000 into their bids to run the city in the 2016 local body elections.
But figures released by Nelson City Council have revealed that the biggest spender does not always win the prize.
That was the case for Pete Rainey, who spent more on his mayoral campaign than his main rival, Rachel Reese, but received less than half the votes that she did.
Election candidates are required to declare the amount they spend on campaigns and any donations over $1500.
Pete spent a total of $28,412 and received 5,050 votes. Radio advertising was his biggest expense at $9,858.52. Rachel spent $27,958.64 and romped home to retain the mayoral chains with 11,364 votes. Both were close to the $30,000 spending limit.
Much of Rachel’s spend came from donations, where Pete did not declare any donations.
Pete says it was “a lot of money” to spend but it was for a cause he believes in.
“There are so many people in our city who don’t have a voice and are increasingly marginalised by both central and local government.”
However, Pete says the Reese campaign also benefitted from extensive advertising funded by Progress Nelson, a lobby group set up for promoting the Southern Link.
At the other end of the spectrum, Graeme O’Brien spent just $10 on a t-shirt from the Warehouse in his mayoral bid, although he did spend $3,417.15 on another unsuccessful bid for council.
The t-shirt read: ‘Vote Graeme for mayor’ on the front and ‘Standing up not standing down’ on the back –and he says it was intended to “wind up” Pete Rainey.
But it gained him 1,871 votes – ahead of Richard Osmaston, who spent $52 and gained 422 votes.
“I was quite surprised with how many people came on-board,” Graeme told the Weekly.
“$10 got me nearly 10 percent of the votes – although I did buy lunch for the guy who made it up for me.”
Successful candidates Stuart Walker and Brian McGurk spent just over $10,000 each – with Brian also knocking on 10,211 doors, and walking about 970 kilometers and in the process.
Kate Fulton ran the most frugal but still successful campaign – parting with just $319.
And apart from the usual costs of printing, signage and advertising, there were a few unusual spends among the candidates.
Highest polling councillor Tim Skinner paid his two sons $250 to deliver his brochures, while Gaile Noonan and deputy mayor Paul Matheson used the photography services of fellow candidate Tim Skinner.
Meanwhile, unsuccessful candidate Robbie Kavanagh spent $100 on rosette badges, while Eric Davy invested $575 in Giggle TV.
Mel Courtney spent the most on his council campaign with $19,328, which he started a year out from the election.
But it paid off and earned him a seat on council after a three-decade hiatus.
“I don’t think it’s necessary to spend that much to earn a seat on council, but I did it to re-establish myself because I hadn’t been on council for 30 years,” he says. “But I was very happy with the outcome and thoroughly enjoyed the campaign.”
Perhaps it was the $230 he spent on fridge magnets.