Western Bay Mayor Ross Paterson has called time after seven and a half years' service in the top job.

Mr Paterson yesterday announced he would not seek re-election at this year's local body elections. He became mayor after the death of Mayor Graeme Weld in November 2008.

His decision to step down after 21 years in local government was tinged with sadness but there were a lot of rewarding things to look back on, Mr Paterson said.

"The opportunity for leadership is a privilege not a right.


"I leave with satisfying memories and a sense of pride from being involved in the planning and funding of projects that have changed the shape of the Western Bay sub-region."

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Personal highlights included co-chairing the Roading Controlling Authorities forum and the introduction of performance-based roading contracts in 2002 by his council, which was a joint venture with NZ Transport Agency, now adopted nationally.

Other highlights included SmartGrowth - the shared growth management strategy between Tauranga City, the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Western Bay District Council and Maori to prepare the region for future growth.

The development of the Tauranga Eastern Link was testimony to SmartGrowth and had been another highlight of his time as mayor.

At a community level, Mr Paterson said he had been involved with plans to ensure the district had a strong future and could thrive economically, socially and environmentally.

"Knowing the benefits of these community-led efforts will endure is something I'll certainly look back on with pride."

There had been huge changes during Mr Paterson's time on council.

One change for the better was more collaboration between councils.

"Twenty years ago councils were so self-centred, they did not speak to their neighbours, let alone work with them. Collaboration is a strength going forward and as councils we can no longer stand on our own," he said.

Mr Paterson said it was imperative that the Bay's councils kept working together and listening to their communities.

Mr Paterson said the next mayor must understand council work was complex.

CV requirements for mayor included having the ability to talk to "anybody and everybody" and be able to "connect the dots and move things along", Mr Paterson said.

They must be flexible as it was a 24-7 role, and they needed to have real enthusiasm for council work, which was the backbone of local government.

Mr Paterson said he was looking forward to spending more time with his wife, three children and nine grandchildren, and focusing on a range of commercial interests.

"I want to make clear that my decision to step down doesn't mean I'm going to retire, as I have plenty of other things in my life that I plan to do."

Deputy Mayor Gwenda Merriman said: "It has been an absolute privilege working with Ross. As mayor he has made a huge contribution which has helped to shape this community and its future wellbeing."

Councillor John Scrimgeour said he was not surprised by Mr Paterson's decision and he deserved "a happy retirement".