Candidates spent $10K-plus on campaigns

Tracy Hicks, left, and Ben Bell. Photo: Gore District Council/Facebook
Tracy Hicks, left, and Ben Bell. Photo: Gore District Council/Facebook
The two Gore district mayoral candidates, who were separated by a fine margin at the ballot box, both spent more than $10,000 on their campaigns.

Election expenses and donations for the Gore District Council became public earlier this month, showing a majority of Tracy Hicks’ expenses went to social media management, while Mayor Ben Bell spent thousands of dollars on advertising and billboards.

Mr Bell spent $10,431.99.

The expenses included $50 on a team song and $20 on team cake as well as the more traditional expenses such as $3311.05 on newspaper advertising.

He spent $1287.89 on design and branding by Wellington creative agency Leverage.

Mr Bell beat Mr Hicks by eight votes.

Mr Hicks had been mayor for six terms.

Mr Hicks spent $14,135.93 in his unsuccessful bid to remain the mayor.

Just under two-thirds of his costs went to Natwick Photography, which was paid $9200 to run his social media campaign.

He also spent more than $2000 on newspaper advertising and received a donation of $5000 from Annette and Ian ‘‘Inky’’ Tulloch, who was mayor of Mataura and later the Gore district from 1983 to 1995.

Mr Bell received 2371 votes, just pipping Mr Hicks, who received 2363 votes.

Mr Hicks appealed to the court nine days after the election for a recount but the application was dismissed by Judge Kevin Kelly following a hearing.

At 23 years old, Mr Bell is the youngest mayor in New Zealand history.

It has been far from plain sailing for Mr Bell.

He attempted to have his own personal assistant appointed but it was voted down by the council after council staff questioned the need for him to have an assistant.

The appointment by Mr Bell of Stewart MacDonell as deputy mayor found little support around the council table.

A petition signed by seven councillors — Richard McPhail, Bronwyn Reid, Paul McPhail, Bret Highsted, Neville Phillips, Glenys Dickson and Joe Stringer — called for a vote on the future of Cr MacDonell’s future as deputy mayor.

Cr MacDonell eventually resigned as the deputy mayor and at a council meeting late last year he was replaced by new councillor Keith Hovell.

Cr Hovell, who previously worked for the Gore District Council as a planning consultant, spent $9560.07 on his campaign, which included $1902.56 on roadside signage.

Cr MacDonell listed no expenses in his campaign.