Sandra is a senior crimes and justice reporter for the Bay of Plenty Times.

Mayoral ambitions scarce for Western Bay vacancy

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Garry Webber.
Garry Webber.

The contest for the top job left void by departing Western Bay of Plenty Mayor Ross Paterson has stalled, with only three existing councillors so far throwing their names in the hat.

Kaimai ward councillor Garry Webber, deputy mayor Gwenda Merriman and Kaimai ward councillor Don Thwaites have all confirmed their intentions to seek the mayoralty.

Katikati-Waihi Beach ward councillor Mike Williams said Mr Paterson's decision had given him "food for thought" but he was still undecided whether to seek the top job.

"I'm quite surprised how few people have put their names forward ... but at the end of the day it's not the quantity of candidates but the quality that matters.

"There may be a growing list of candidates for the Tauranga mayoralty but when you look at those candidates, I would be horrified if some of them became mayor," Cr Williams said.

"I would like to see more young people becoming involved in local body politics."

Mayor Paterson said the race to find his replacement had definitely been "very quiet" since the three candidates were made public.

"But I have no problem with the quality of the people who have put their hands up.

"In fact, I'm quite pleased these candidates have come out of our local government system and all have intimate knowledge of this community."

Mr Paterson said whoever did put their name forward needed to understand it was not a highly paid job for the hours of work and the commitment it required.

"Anyone standing for council needs to go into it for the right reasons."

Katikati Community Board chairman Sam Dunlop, a previous Western Bay councillor, said he was "undecided" whether to add his name to the mayoral contest.

Mr Dunlop said he wanted time to speak to the current candidates and anyone else putting their names forward to check whether they had an appetite for much-needed changes before deciding.

"But in my opinion, Garry Webber has got the credentials to be mayor."

Crs Kevin Marsh, Karyl Gunn-Thomas, Ross Gourdie, Peter McKay and seven-term councillor Margaret Murray-Benge confirmed they would be standing as councillors only.

Councillor John Scrimgeour said he would probably stand again.

Cr McKay said standing for mayor was "not for him".

"I'm not backing any of the three current candidates but I would be happy to work with all three if one of them was elected mayor," he said.

Te Puke ward councillor Sue Matthews had confirmed she would be standing down this year.

Mark Boyle, head of Te Puke Economic Development Group, who stood for the mayoralty in 2013, earlier said that after serious consideration he had decided not to stand.

Maketu Community Board chairman and Maketu Fire Chief Shane Beech said he would not stand for the mayoralty this time round but in three years' time he may do so.

Western Ward Residents and Ratepayers Association chairman Selwyn Hill said he was unaware of anyone else considering throwing their names in the ring. "I definitely expected the mayoral race to have picked up by now. It's a real shame as I don't think any of the current candidates are amazing choices for the community."

Cr Thwaites said there was still plenty of time for other people to put their names forward. Commenting on Cr Webber's addition of the word "Mayor" to his Facebook page, he said: "I am quite comfortable with Garry doing so because I don't believe the mayoralty will be won on social media."

Cr Merriman was unavailable for comment last night, but her husband Ross told the Bay of Plenty Times he and his wife believed winning the hearts of voters required more than a social media campaign.

'Mayor' tag a statement of intent, says Webber

Councillor Garry Webber says adding the tag 'mayor' to his Facebook page was nothing to do with arrogance but rather was him making it clear to the community he's seeking the top job or nothing.

Mr Webber said he would have put his name in the hat at the last election but due to Mayor Ross Paterson's long tenure, skills and his respect for him, he decided not to run.

"Now Ross has decided to retire from council, I feel it's the right time to put my name in the ring.

"I suppose I've also been a bit disappointed over the last three years that as a council we could have done better for the community."

Mr Webber said after being involved in local government for the six years, he had learned that managing a democratic organisation takes someone with a special set of qualities and skills.

"It's no different than being a director of a large community organisation or business."

Mr Webber said the top job required good leadership skills and the ability to work with the council's senior management team and ensure they "hear" the messages from council.

"After six years in council and also having lots of experience leading large organisations I definitely believe I have the credentials for the top role. Adding mayor to my Facebook tag is not me being arrogant but making it quite clear where I stand. I'm not going to stand for councillor again. It's mayor or nothing.

"I don't see this as simply an election, I believe this is an interview for the top job."

Key dates:

June 27: Voter enrolment update packs sent out.

July 15: Nominations open for candidates. Nominations have to be sent to the electoral officer for the council, district health board or licensing trust. Rolls open for inspection at council offices and other sites locally.

August 12: Nominations close at noon. Rolls close. After this date, anyone who is entitled to vote and who is not enrolled as an elector, or whose details are incorrectly recorded on the roll, will have to cast a "special vote".

August 17: Election date and candidates' names publicised by electoral officers.

September 16-21: Voting documents delivered to households. Electors can post the documents back to electoral officers as soon as they have voted.

October 8: Polling day - the voting documents must be at the council before voting closes at 12 noon. Preliminary results (ie, once all "ordinary" votes are counted) will be available as soon as possible afterwards.

October 13-19 (or as soon as practicable): Official results (including all valid ordinary and special votes) declared.


- Bay of Plenty Times

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