Citizens & Ratepayers’ secret weapon: Maurice Williamson

The former minister of information technology and communications personally developed the database applications that allowed C&R to target crucial voters

Opposition MP Maurice Williamson dusted down some old skills to help the Citizens and Ratepayers campaign succeed in the Auckland local-body elections this month.

The former minister of information technology and communications — who early in his career spent 12 years with Air New Zealand programming airline planning software — personally developed the database applications that allowed Citizens & Ratepayers to target crucial voters in a low-turnout election.

Williamson says he developed the software using Visual Basic and a bit of C++.

Nicholas Albrecht, C&R’s campaign manager, says Williamson’s contribution to the campaign was very important as it allowed electoral roll data to be used to target people within certain demographics who had not yet voted.

“We were able to match to certain criteria,” Albrecht says, “such as household income, age and geography.

“Maurice’s system meant we were able to combine all of those three and achieve a quick turnaround of the data.”

Albrecht says queries could be turned around in a couple of hours and the results were then emailed to candidates to use.

“It’s pretty powerful if you are a candidate,” he says.’

Albrecht says while query tools have been used by C&R before, it was taken to a new level in the latest election. He says he’s sure the other parties use similar tools, but he’s not sure if these were as quick or what they could do.

Albrecht says there’s no doubt the software helped C&R achieve what he describes as “the biggest win we’ve had for a good 20 years”.

He says it may have allowed the C&R to win in areas that would normally be considered strongholds for the centre-left. Being able to target the right voters, he says, is crucial in a low-turnout election.

The New Zealand Herald reported that the right-leaning Citizens & Ratepayers won 11 of the 19 available seats on the Auckland City Council. Its mayoral candidate, John Banks, returned to the mayor’s office after a three-year absence. Five councillors represent the centre-left City Vision or Labour Party.

Calls to City Vision leader Richard Northey were not returned by press-time. Former City Vision Councillor Neil Abel, who lost his Eden-Albert seat by just 13 votes, says the block, which is an alliance of Greens, Labour, Alliance and independent councillors, “uses the resources available in each one of those political groupings”. Apart from the fact the group employed a webmaster, however, he was unable to go into further detail.

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