One of the endearing characteristics of New Zealand is the accessibility of public figures. Not only is New Zealand a small country, and individual cities, in the main, still 'human-scale', but there is a long-established tradition that New Zealanders are open and accessible.
Indeed, Austin Mitchell wrote in The Half Gallon Quarter Acre Pavlova Paradise that the best way for an immigrant (as he was, albeit temporary) to be accepted in New Zealand was to learn the telephone directory.
Indeed, it is commonplace for people when they first meet to establish where each is from, and what school they went to and so on. Very quickly, these topics will lead to comments such as "Oh, well you must know ..." And surprisingly often, they do!
I have encountered the same phenomonon amongst Irish people, and I suspect the trait is one of the markers which points to one of the enduring influences of the Irish immigrant community on New Zealand society.
The same openness and accessibility can also be seen in our political system, as in this year's Local Body elections. To illustrate.
There is a very good, neutral site listing all candidates and providing a profile of each, as provided by the candidates themselves. Local Elections 2010 is a comprehensive site organised by Local Government NZ.
Hutt City Council has the full list of candidates standing for elected positions on the Council, Community Boards, the District Health Board, and the Hutt Mana Charitable Trust. Not only does this list provide the full name of the candidate, and 'party' affiliation if any, it also has a private email address for almost all candidates, along with their (presumably home) phone number!
This year in Lower Hutt there are two Mayoral candidates: Ray Wallace and David Ogden (the incumbent). Their profiles can be seen at: