Upgrade costs major issue

Experience versus new blood - that is the choice facing Invercargill voters this year.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt faces two challengers to his bid to lead the city for a record seventh term and become the longest-serving mayor in the country.

Mr Shadbolt (66), who was mayor of Waitemata City in Auckland for two terms before moving south, was Invercargill Mayor from 1992-95 and has held the post since 1998.

His challengers are former police officer Lindsay Dow (65), an Invercargill city councillor for six years from 1993-98, and unemployed printer Kevin Middleton (54), who has no previous council experience.

Seats on the Invercargill City Council will be hotly contested as 22 candidates vie for 12 places. Of the 22, 19 are men. All but three current councillors are standing again.

One of the major issues for the new council will be the cost of upgrading the CBD. The current council last month adopted a master plan with an estimated price tag of $12.2 million, but the project is divided into 12 stages over five years and the new council will no doubt be discussing the priorities and costs again soon.

Infrastructure issues such as the cost of roads and water and sewage upgrades will continue to occupy the minds of the new Southland District Council.

Another major issue is where it will find the additional $4 million required to match government funding for the Around the Mountains cycle trail, which will eventually run from Kingston to Walter Peak Station, via Lumsden and Mossburn. Stage one of the trail is being constructed now.

There are four vacant seats on the council. Holiday park owner and council newcomer Gary Tong is one of three people chasing the Southland District mayoralty vacated by long-serving incumbent Frana Cardno.

The others are sitting councillors Paul Duffy, a semi-retired dairy farmer, and Mossburn farmer John Douglas.

Three councillors have also decided to retire or stand down.

This is the first election under the council's new electoral system, which will see 12 councillors elected from five wards instead of the previous 12 wards. Elections are required in three of the five wards.

In the Environment Southland election race, most interest will be on the Invercargill-Rakiura constituency, where 15 candidates are chasing six seats.

Among them is newcomer Lyndal Ludlow, the wife of current Invercargill deputy mayor Darren Ludlow.

Five current Environment Southland councillors, including chairwoman Ali Timms and her deputy Nicol Horrel, have been elected unopposed, leaving only another seven to find.

The new council, whose focus will continue to be on water quality and Invercargill air quality, elects its chairman and deputy at its first meeting.

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