New chief executive sees challenges ahead

The Gore District Council has officially started a new era.

Chief executive Deborah Lascelles was welcomed to the council last week with a mihi whakatau at the Gore District Library.

For the past two years, Ms Lascelles worked at the South Waikato District Council, initially as group manager community and corporate and then as executive manager strategy and transformation.

She is now the Gore council’s third chief executive in 35 years.

"Its been an awesome welcome. Amazing weather today. Nice and cold, but beautiful sunshine," she said.

Gore’s public facilities were one of the reasons she had been attracted to the town and the role.

Her initial priorities would be the completion of the 2024-25 annual plan and beginning work on the 2025-34 long-term plan.

"I think local government is in for some challenging times. Like all councils around the country, we’ve got some financial [and] sustainability issues. Rates affordability is a big one and also what we do with our waters infrastructure. So those are definitely going to be topics for consideration."

At present the council had a 21.4% rates increase proposed.

"Gore is not alone in terms of rates increases."

Other councils through New Zealand faced a similar challenge, she said.

Gore District Council chief executive Deborah Lascelles was welcomed to the council last week by...
Gore District Council chief executive Deborah Lascelles was welcomed to the council last week by Gore District Mayor Ben Bell and other attendees. PHOTO: BEN ANDREWS
"It’s just unfortunately part of the story at the moment for all councils." She had dealt with the challenge at South Waikato. "I bring that experience with me to Gore."

Gore District Mayor Ben Bell said it felt like a long journey to get to this stage.

"With the challenges that local government is facing I think it’s time to unite as a council. I feel we’ve done a lot of work on ourselves as elected members and now it’s just repairing the bridge and starting a new fresh page with the management."

He agreed there would be a lot of work for the council to complete.

"I think a new, fresh perspective will really help that along its way."

The mihi whakatau was attended by council members, staff and representatives from the Hokonui Rūnanga.

South Waikato Mayor Gary Petley, South Waikato chief executive Susan Law, Raukawa iwi and cultural adviser Mahu Armstrong also attended.

Gore council communications and customer support general manager Sonia Gerken said the cost of their attendance came at no expense to the council.

Former chief executive Stephen Parry left the council on May 10.

He had been the chief executive for more than 20 years.