Clutha District Council by-election

Following the resignation last month of long-standing councillor Michelle Kennedy, of Tapanui, a by-election for one of two West Otago ward seats on the Clutha District Council will take place on March 17. After nominations closed last week, the Otago Daily Times caught up with the candidates stepping up to the plate: Lloyd McCall and Gabrielle Mills.

Lloyd McCall
Lloyd McCall
Lloyd McCall

of Tapanui, farmer and rural consultant. 

This will not be Lloyd McCall’s first experience of campaigning for election.

The Tapanui farmer, water quality advocate and rural consultant campaigned unsuccessfully for the Molyneux ward of the Otago Regional Council in 2019, but expects that experience to stand him in good stead for his current bid.

"Given this will be someone dropping into council mid-term, the fact that I’m already plugged into local issues both rural and urban in West Otago, and have plenty of governance experience, makes me a good fit, I believe. I can fill the gap and get up to speed quite quickly."

West Otago born and bred, Mr McCall hails from a Waikoikoi sheep and beef farm, and moved sideways into accountancy, banking and rural management consultancy.

He says he retains a family interest in a 300ha West Otago dairy farm, while most of his time nowadays is occupied with consultancy, and his role as a project manager for the Pomahaka Water Care Group (PWCG).

Mr McCall was a key figure in establishing and developing the award-winning, farmer-led group, whose 160 members continue to explore and innovate methods for improving freshwater quality, catchment-wide.

At present, he was helping establish an Otago-wide "catchment community" to help PWCG, and a further 10 catchment groups representing a total of 700 farmers, have a "louder voice" for lobbying, advocacy and fundraising.

He said his motivation to stand for council was driven by a simple philosophy.

"If you want to have a say in something, you need to be prepared to put yourself forward.

"West Otago is a pretty special, unique place to live and work, and I believe I’m in a good position both to speak up for local concerns, and help position our patch as an important contributor to the Clutha District as a whole.

"I’m not afraid to speak up on the difficult issues, and willing to work with others to find consensus."

Married to Robyn for 38 years, Mr McCall has two adult children and three grandchildren.

He said he understood the importance of "building and growing a sustainable community", including projects such as the imminent construction of a $15million Balclutha Community Hub.

"I’m a strong supporter of infrastructure projects, but they need to be sustainable and up front to allow growth to occur."

He believed his long-standing interests in water care projects could help the council with well-publicised recent issues around wastewater non-compliance.

"I think the council’s been a bit oblivious regarding water care issues in general. I’ve been impressed with the quick action they’ve taken to address matters since, but this needs to remain an area of focus for anyone coming in."

Mr McCall said he did not know fellow candidate Gabrielle Mills personally, but wished her well for the forthcoming election.

"It’s good for democracy that we have two good local candidates up for election. I wish her all the best."

Gabrielle Mills
Gabrielle Mills
Gabrielle Mills

of Tapanui, qualified counsellor and registered nurse.

Clutha District Council hopeful Gabrielle Mills says, if elected, an emphasis on "prevention rather than cure" will shape her tenure.

Although new to formal governance, the Tapanui counsellor and registered nurse has been serving her community since she returned 10 years ago to her childhood town.

Far from a fresh-eyed approach being a disadvantage, Mrs Mills says she hopes it will lead to improved outcomes for the district.

"We have a responsibility to continue to improve our environmental impact, including maintaining and upgrading services and facilities, and adopting and implementing new technology as required.

"We need to future-proof for environmental concerns, such as the current disappointing wastewater issue throughout the region."

She also questioned the relevance of the new Clutha Community Hub in Balclutha to West Otago residents.

"This contentious issue may impact West Otago ratepayers, who currently maintain two community centres, and several local halls."

Her long-standing nursing experience — in diverse roles at home and abroad — had shown her the benefits of prevention over cure.

"It’s a principle that can successfully be applied to political issues, and one I’d like to bring to council if I’m elected."

Focused on bereavement counselling after her experiences working in palliative hospice care, the mother-of-four says she values honest and open dialogue.

Today, she divides her time between counselling and nursing at Gore Health Centre.

"I’m down-to-earth and approachable, and address matters with integrity.

"West Otago is a great place to bring up a family, live and work, and I want to represent our incredible community strongly, and share our local voice with council."

Mrs Mills said she brought a mother’s experience with her to the table.

"I appreciate the difficulties, hard times and strengths that come with raising a larger family, while supporting older family members.

"I’ve enjoyed supporting my husband Patrick both in his role with Tapanui Volunteer Fire Brigade, and in his involvement with the IHC calf scheme for the past 15 years."

At a personal level, Mrs Mills looked forward to even greater involvement in her community.

"Near the beginning of the pandemic, I established Supporting West Otago and, together with a team of incredible locals, we provided phone support, and deliveries of essentials to many West Otago people, including families undergoing illness and bereavement."

She said she had also helped establish the Tapanui Community Garden, community Facebook pages, a stroke support group, and a senior health expo, while also being involved with various organisations.

She looked forward to a fair fight for the vacant seat.

"I know of Lloyd and the incredible work he has achieved with PWCG ...

He’s a strong contender and I sincerely wish him well."


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