A voice for the South

Tim Shadbolt
Sir Tim Shadbolt is the country's longest-serving mayor. Photo: ODT files
The people of Invercargill have a lot to thank Sir Timothy Richard Shadbolt for.

Sir Tim was today named a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, joining seven other men and women in receiving this year's top honour.

Recognition for the 71-year-old one-time political activist - who has been arrested more than 30 times - is fitting for a man who has spent much of his life in local body politics, the last 25 years as a staunch advocate for his beloved Invercargill.

His longevity - New Zealand's longest-serving mayor - is a remarkable story of resilience given his political future was left hanging when he was ousted as mayor of Waitemata City in the 1980s after serving two terms.

Sir Tim is quoted as saying after the defeat friends from the Manapouri Project contacted him, saying they needed a mayor in Invercargill. Ever the optimist, Sir Tim took the gamble and in 1993 was elected. Some questioned Sir Tim's motives and whether he was using Invercargill as a stepping stone to bigger and better political ambitions. He was ousted as mayor after just one term.

Determined not to give up, Sir Tim returned to the mayoral office at the 1998 election. He claimed people voted him back because they were bored with a mayor who kept his head down and took no risk. Boring, Sir Tim certainly is not.

He has remained in office since and, having already signalled his intention to stand again, who would bet against him winning a seventh term when next year's local body elections roll around.

Sir Tim might be in charge of the country's southernmost city, but he is arguably the most recognised mayor in the country. To many, he is the loveable rogue, with a cheeky smile and raucous laugh. Perhaps most importantly, he retains the ability to laugh at himself.

He is unashamedly the face of Invercargill and has been street-wise enough to use that profile to the city's advantage. Invercargill was once the fastest declining city in the country but now has a growing population and a thriving economy.

Sir Tim cannot take credit for all that success but his cheerleading ability has ensured Invercargill is no longer the country's forgotten city.

Sir Tim is well aware how important his national profile is.

''I think in all the elections, what I have said is I give Invercargill an identity, I have put it on the map and I want to keep it on the map,'' Sir Tim has previously said.

''That's probably the greatest service I [give] to the city, is just putting it on the map.''

Long may Invercargill remain on the map.

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