100 days in: How new mayors are coping

Aaron Hawkins is New Zealand's only Green Party mayor. Peter McIntosh/ODT
Aaron Hawkins is New Zealand's only Green Party mayor. Peter McIntosh/ODT
It has been 100 days since mayors in cities and districts around the country took up the mayoral chains.

With some elected on promising to make big changes and to get things done, this is a look into how some of the newbies are coping in their roles.

All five mayors said the hard work was now only just beginning.

Dunedin - Aaron Hawkins: 'Complex decisions over the next year'

Dunedin's Aaron Hawkins holds the reins of power as the country's only Green Party Mayor and is coming to terms with the two different jobs in being a mayor.

''One public facing, and one governance and strategy within the council and trying to make sure you have enough time to do both of those things.''

He ran a campaign of keeping things moving forward in much the same direction as his predecessor.

''The focus since the election has been making sure that all of our elected members - and we do have some new councillors - are all on the same page, and brought up to speed with the work the council has been doing over the last three to six years.''

Hawkins said one issue everyone needed to start thinking about in Dunedin was the supply of housing, particularly public housing, and for the transport and waste systems to take account of both a growing population and the urgent need to transition to a zero carbon economy.

''Those are not easy things to do, nor are they necessarily cheap things to do, but the implications for not doing those are far more costly.

"They will be complex decisions over the next year.''

Grey District mayor Tania Gibson Photo: supplied
Grey District mayor Tania Gibson Photo: supplied

Grey District - Tania Gibson: 'We need to be looking at the future'

On the West Coast, new Mayor of Grey District Tania Gibson is working on revitalising the region in a positive way in the aftermath of the Pike River tragedy in 2010.

''We need to start looking to the future and looking at the positives on the West Coast, such as the new Paparoa track," Gibson said.

Her focus is on making infrastructure in the region more resilient to natural disasters.

''As a council, with low rating bases, we don't have the funding to do it ourselves."

She said her council and others on the coast were in need of help.

''We need NZTA [Transport Agency] to be making sure those roading routes are resilient, especially if we end up with our major [earthquake] fault-line going at some stage. You know, we need to be looking at the future.''

Wellington mayor Andy Foster Photo: RNZ
Wellington mayor Andy Foster Photo: RNZ

Wellington - Andy Foster: 'It was about getting my feet under the table'

Wellington's Mayor Andy Foster survived the threat of a recount to take the mayoral chains.

He said while it was a bit of a distraction, he got stuck into the job straight away, with the first decision being to appoint a new chief executive.

''We have also made some decisions on getting bus priority underway, so we will be consulting on some improvements in February and March," Foster said.

"We have also made some decisions around accelerating Lets Get Wellington Moving, providing some extra resources for that," he said.

"And we have also done some nice things like opening the new Johnsonville Library, Waitohi and an extension to the Keith Spry swimming pool. Yeah, there are quite a few things that have been going on.''

Foster said he did not go into the job with any real expectations.

''It wasn't about expectations, it was about getting my feet under the table and getting on working with the jobs I know need to be done.''

He said the sense he was getting from Wellington people was that they liked the change.

''They want a sense of energy and purpose and confidence and drive and they want stuff to get done in the city.

''I am absolutely loving the role. It's got a huge number of challenges, but also a huge number of opportunities."

Napier mayor Kirsten Wise. Photo: RNZ
Napier mayor Kirsten Wise. Photo: RNZ

Napier - Kirsten Wise: Portfolio allocations 'developing really, really well'

Issues around water, such as chlorination, and repairing relationships within council, and with the public, have been taking up a lot of the time of Napier's new Mayor Kirsten Wise.

She believed allocating portfolios to councillors, a first for the bay city, had been successful in opening lines of communication.

''A councillor with an area of responsibility and they then work alongside our council officers across the management levels, not just at the top level but levels below that as well on any key issue within that portfolio area. That's developing really, really well.''

Wise said removing chlorination from the water supply was on track.

''At the end of last year, we passed a resolution for a review of our network and the chlorine-free options that we have available to us.''

Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell. Photo: supplied
Tauranga mayor Tenby Powell. Photo: supplied

Tauranga - Tenby Powell: 'Growing homelessness is unacceptable to me'

Tenby Powell is the mayor of the country's fastest growing city, Tauranga. He came from a business background wanting the council to be more efficient.

Powell said he was dividing his time equally on social issues, such as homelessness, as well as promoting economic growth.

He said his prime focus so far had been building relationships with neighbouring councils and central government.

In his first week he met with the Minister for Urban Development and Transport Phil Twyford.

''We had what is now widely called a reset meeting between Tauranga and central government and he has been to Tauranga twice since then," Powell said.

"Fundamentally, we are talking about roading, housing and transportation. We are in desperate need for central government funding to crack on with our infrastructure, which in my view is about 15 years behind.''

His promise to repair the Mauao base track, damaged in a slip in 2017, and make it accessible to all people had been fulfilled, Powell said.

''This isn't just a track for the sake of it, it's New Zealand's number one walked track, nearly 2 million people per year walk that track and it has a huge economic impact as well, it draws people to the area.''

The biggest social issue facing his city is homelessness, he said.

''Growing homelessness is unacceptable to me.''

He said the city needed to find a way to do something about it and it could not be done without central government assistance.

 

 

Comments

Sorry Aaron, the writing on the walls have been around for years. With the well predicted population growth. lack of nessesary infrastructure and neglect of maintainance Dunedin has experienced over the past 15 years or so, we should not be surprised about the housing issue. What is needed is a Mayor that knows a thing or two about business, construction, engineering. Someone who can analyse, digest, engage and answer critically to advisers and planners. TV and Radio show hosts who know nothing of how a city actually works cannot be expected to make meaningful decisions or offer advice in return. Some have never had a 'real job', or ever had their hands dirty. Experienced and practical thinkers are required for such a position. Your 'on screen' personalities aren't enough anymore, with so much at stake. Dunedin, you have what you have voted for, a continuation of the past, with a hint of green. We're all soon to pay dearly for our own neglect. Those who can't be bothered to research and vote, would be better served living in North Korea. Lets do better next time.

 

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