Incumbent claims advantage of experience

The Otago Daily Times continues its series of profiles of mayoral candidates. Fifteen people say they should be the next mayor of the various district and city councils in the wider Otago-Southland region. To help voters make informed decisions in the 2019 elections, we ask candidates who they are, what they stand for and how they would handle the big issues facing their district. Hamish MacLean puts the questions to the Waitaki District mayoral candidates.

Gary Kircher
Gary Kircher

Gary Kircher

Age: 55.
Occupation: Waitaki mayor.
Council experience: Nine years as a councillor, six years as mayor.
Describe yourself in three words: Community-minded, worker, experienced.

What makes you the best person to lead the Waitaki District Council for the next three years?

In a word, experience. It's the thing that differentiates me from others. I know the district. I know how the system works. I am always learning, but I'm also able to tackle most topics pretty much head on. Just as importantly as knowing what to do, I know what I can't do. Because the powers of the mayor are very specific - one of the big issues is knowing the power you have is really the power your councillors give you. One of the big things is being able to work well with other people to make good progress.

What is the greatest asset of the Waitaki district?

I think people is the easy answer. It's the passionate people that we have in our numerous communities that help to make things happen. There's a whole spectrum of them. But if I could choose a second thing, it would be all of the other things that we have inherited. We've got so many opportunities because of those.

What is the greatest challenge facing the district and how do you propose we overcome it?

From a council perspective, I think it's being able to afford everything that we're required to do. Essentially, you've got the situation where you've got a small population, a very large area. The whole thing, 1800km of roads, increasing pressure on our roads, increasing pressure from central government to do more - drinking water standards. There's a multitude of things and some things you can have an effect on, but it's all the things that we can't have an effect on - that's the challenge. It's all of the things that we can't change. For those things, we have to work with others to help change them. It is an ongoing discussion, lobbying, meetings that we have to have with central government, with ministries, with other agencies to deal with these issues.

What would be your top priorities for the next term at council?

Roading continues to be a top priority, trying to get enough investment into roads and trying to get enough NZTA subsidy to match that to keep building the resilience of our roading system up.

Our waste is an increasing problem. And we know the issues of not having a local landfill, but the reality is it just doesn't stack up financially. But we have all the other issues around the cost of getting rid of waste. The issues around recycling. So, one of the things is to go out and survey the public and ask them what their preference is around things like rate-funded kerbside collection.

District-wide economic development - there's initiatives we've done which have been really effective. The Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail, irrigation are a couple of major things that have made a real difference, things like the business park, the retirement village, even. But for a part of our district it hasn't been so easy. We've got Oceana Gold in East Otago and that's the second largest employer in our district but outside of agriculture and a bit of contracting it's very difficult in that area.

What promise are you able to make Waitaki residents today that you will keep if you are elected as mayor?

I promise that I will continue to work very hard to make Waitaki a better place to live, work, and play.

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