The race for the Gisborne Mayoralty has implications for the nation's future.
Ex National Party MP Ross Meurant is vying with two incumbent councillors for the Tairawhiti (East Coast) region's top local authority job in this year's October elections.
As one with a vested interest in the outcome of these contests having thrown my hat into the ring seeking election to both Council and the Health Board, l am keeping a close eye on some of the more high profile candidates - there are some interesting characters amongst them.
Ross Meurant is one such individual who deserves attention for a whole host of reasons, not least being a reputation for bringing a rather Machiavellian approach to any political contest he enters.
He is the sort of character who encourages political observers to dig amongst the embers of past campaigns trying to find evidence that the assurances and commitments being given can withstand close scrutiny.
For all l know he may well be able to convince enough voters to tick the box in his favour and go on to become an outstanding leader.
However, my knowledge of the local electorate and the relative merits of his competitors would suggest that there is about as much likelihood of him beating the local girls as a snowball's chance in hell.
None of which is going to matter anyway because l'm suggesting Meurant's plans never included a stint wearing the ermine lined mayoral robes.
I reckon he has eyes on a much greater prize.
Here is my theory on what we might expect to happen over the coming months.
I think that Meurant's entry into the Mayoral race here in Gisborne is really all about the next election - the General Election.
I'll bet ten bob to a knob of goat shit that he is using it as an opportunity to position himself for becoming the New Zealand First candidate for the East Coast seat in next year's vote.
Everything appears to be pointing towards New Zealand First needing to win an electorate seat in order to remain in Parliament and l can't see that parlous position changing anytime soon. Finding one that offers a better than even chance of success will have implications for the survival of the Government as well.
So, what other seats do we know of around the Country that might be prepared to accommodate one of Winston's boys and girls?
I can't think of any that are as vulnerable to change as East Coast, especially with the amount of government funds being used to sweeten the possibility of a grateful electorate rewarding those who came to its aid in a time of need.
At the moment, l suspect Meurant is likely only testing the waters to see what the reaction to his candidacy will be but don't be surprised if his experience delivers the encouragement he needs for seeking higher honours.
So, to add a bit of background to this story and for what it is worth, here is my personal assessment of where things stand here on the East Coast for this particular local body election plus my own view of the challenges we face beyond the 2020 general election irrespective of who or what ends up sitting on the Treasury benches.
As a political junkie, l have followed Ross Meurant's career ever since he emerged onto the national scene as the head of Red Squad - a riot control police unit used to maintain law and order during the sometimes violent clashes of the 1981 Springbok tour.
I admit that his “no nonsense” attitude appealed to my (on reflection) immature attitude to international human rights at the time and l guess, like many young “footy loving” Kiwi males, regarded him in the same light as one of my fictional childhood heroes- RAF Pilot James Bigglesworth or “Biggles” whose daily job was to seek out and destroy those who might threaten our sovereignty.
Having read Meurant's own account of those dark days and his part in maintaining the law in such troubling circumstances, l have a grudging respect for at least some of his achievements since leaving the Police. Some would say he has done very well for himself!
However, being the servant of Russian oligarchs with business interests on our patch, no matter how legitimate, doesn't automatically qualify him as a suitable candidate for this region's top job.
While his CV demonstrates an ability to overcome difficult assignments, l'm not sure his track record of being a made to order pugilist is the sort of person we want to lead us in our hour of need. And believe me, things really are that serious although a visitor to these shores might not think so given the “lemming like” leadership we have received from Council during recent terms.
Most experienced observers will tell you that leadership needs to come from the top and so it is appropriate that all candidates for Council or the Health Board are asked to demonstrate a grasp of the realities of our current perilous position.
Having established that we are in uncertain times, the selection of people with the right skills to overcome our problems will be crucial to our survival. Consequently, we must examine the track record of each individual running for office to see if their history is one of “making it happen”. Looking ahead, nothing else will suffice.
For my money, that type of selection criteria will automatically exclude anybody with a hint of “appeaser” in his or her repertoire.
There is no question that special interest groups have been allowed to dictate the development strategies we have adopted over recent years and it is time for them to be shown the door. The threats to this region's livelihood are huge and it will take more than another wasteful stint of “l'm all right Jack” mentality if we are to make any headway in overcoming the challenges ahead.
Our leadership team for the next three years must include our most experienced minds chosen from those who are unafraid of having their parentage questioned.
Thankfully, enough of these people do exist and are offering themselves for election in most communities around the country.
We must hope that the voters will be discerning in their selections and we will all benefit from their choices.
Clive Bibby is a commentator, consultant, farmer and community leader, who lives in Tolaga Bay.