Districts guaranteed at least two new mayors

Two South Canterbury districts will have new mayors, and the third will not know until after voting closes on October 12.

Timaru Mayor Janie Annear decided not to stand again this election after three terms as mayor and 18 years on the Timaru District Council, while Waimate Mayor John Coles also stood down after three terms as mayor and 19 years on the Waimate District Council.

In the third South Canterbury council, Mackenzie Mayor Claire Barlow, who was the council's receptionist until being elected to the top role in 2010, is seeking a second term with Cr Graeme Page opposing her after three terms as a councillor for the Opuha ward.

Mr Page is not standing in the ward, pinning all his hopes on the outcome of the mayoral race,Seeking to replace Mrs Annear in Timaru are two first-term councillors, Steven Earnshaw and Damon Odey, the two highest polling candidates in the Timaru ward in 2010.

And, already the contest has hotted up with claim and counter-claim, including who will be a full-time mayor, after Mr Earnshaw said he intended to continue to work as a surgeon.

Mr Earnshaw maintains he will still have the time to commit to the mayoralty 100%, a pledge Mr Odey has also been repeating.

The campaign has also thrown up other points of contention between the two, including Mr Earnshaw naming fellow Access 2 Action candidate and existing councillor, Tracey Tiernay, as his deputy mayor - something which needs a majority vote of the full council, although tradition has usually been the mayor's nomination gets the nod.

However, they also agree on some issues, including upgrading infrastructure and the potential cost to the community of earthquake-proofing buildings under new government requirements.

The Waimate mayoralty race also has two councillors, both from the Waimate ward, opposing each other. Sharyn Cain and Craig Rowley hope to replace Mr Coles.

If Ms Cain is elected, she will be Waimate's first female mayor, both before and after local body amalgamation when the borough and county councils combined into the district council in 1988, before national reorganisation in 1989.

Issues facing the town include earthquake-prone buildings, particularly its collection of Edwardian heritage buildings, maintaining economic development and growth and a long-running and expensive dispute between the council and businessman Keith Williams.

Mrs Barlow's election as first female mayor in Mackenzie came as a surprise in a close run contest in 2010 when she beat Cr Page by just 30 votes.

In the past three years, she has done a lot to establish her position as mayor, and usually the incumbent is regarded as having an advantage, but the vote is likely to be close.

Issues facing her district include continuing tourism growth with new attractions such as the Tekapo Starlight Reserve, along with finalising the long-running legal battle of changes to its district plan.

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