Tremendous opportunities available by thinking small

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. Today, Guy Willams puts the questions to Southland district mayoral candidate Don Bryars.

Don Bryars
Don Bryars


Don Byars

Age: 50
Occupation: Father, gardener, passive business
Council experience: None
Describe yourself in three words: Compassionate, committed, curious


Don Byars was raised on a sheep farm near Waikaka, near Gore. After stints living in Dunedin, overseas and in Queenstown, he returned to his home district five years ago, settling in Riverton.

He says he is standing for mayor to give voters a choice, and to ensure a diversity of ideas can be discussed.

Why are you standing for mayor?

To ensure that as a community, we have a variety of ideas and possibilities to consider during the election process. If my standing would also encourage others to stand next time, that would be great too.

Will you be a full-time mayor and why?

There are huge opportunities available to our region. However, we do have to improve our stories. For example, the idea that bigger is better. Adopting large scale has proven harmful.

To our people, environment and our region's ability to adapt to change. I will be a full-time mayor, but am mindful that the mayor's desk sits outside our region.

If we choose to work on positive stories, then I would rather be in our community helping to identify opportunities and implementing initiatives to diversify and strengthen our regional economy.

What position do you think the district is in?

The natural beauty of this region is stunning. The oceans, mountains and everywhere in between are a big part of what makes life in the South so special. Our people are special too. The friendly welcome, the honest conversation and the support our community offers to those in need.

Change is here. It is here at a time when our district depends on two or three food products to generate the majority of our export earnings. This is an economic risk for our farmers and therefore our region. Consumer preferences change, the world financial system sags under the weight of excessive debt (note interest rates approaching zero), trade-flow disruption risk and pollution accrues in our natural world.

We produce very few products on a large scale. And then rely on food hauled in from around the country, and around the world, to feed us. Large-scale focus on a small group of food products is also a social risk. Large scale creates stress on landowners as intensification distorts land-use options.

This creates a lack of diversity of employment and deprives people of wide-ranging opportunity to make a valuable contribution to our community. Therefore, many of our young people leave in search of other communities to which they can contribute.

What are three issues facing the incoming council?

Being open to the tremendous opportunities available to us by thinking small. For example, fish farms. Large-scale fish farming invites outside ownership to place cages of fish in the southern ocean. Profits leave our region while the pollution remains.

Let's invite new models of (fish) farming and investment, in ponds where fish manure can be utilised as an asset to grow plants. Partnerships may form between a grower and landowner to produce fish in a way that retains profits in our region and provides various ownership opportunities.

If we think small, any mistakes (and let us have fun making a few) will be small too. Help bring our community together with the understanding that we are all currently contributing to the degradation of the natural world. Without exception. Work together.

The opportunities are huge. Farming leaders are already considering changes that include building carbon and nitrogen cycles into their farming operations. Let us also consider local market opportunities that can be layered into these changes.

To help our landowners diversify, create a diverse range of employment opportunities and build a safe and secure local food supply for our region that we can all enjoy.

What is one thing you would like to have achieved by the end of your next term?

Build a small home. Made from the earth. For your consideration.

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