Former mayors make their picks

By Ged Cann

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Margaret Evans
Margaret Evans

Hamilton News spoke to four former Hamilton mayors to get their two cents worth on the upcoming local body elections. Ged Cann got their take on the issues they think are important and asked who their pick for the city's new mayor is.

MARGARET EVANS 1989-1998

Biggest issue facing Hamilton:

"What is very significant is the two quite different stories that are emerging about the state of the city finances.

"Six years ago when Julie Hardaker was elected, the Ministry of Local Government was contemplating quite publicly chucking the Hamilton City Council because of the state of its finances."

Despite recent financial reports looking outwardly positive, Ms Evans said candidates Chris Simpson and Andrew King were questioning the true state of the city's finances.

"Chris [Simpson] is actually talking about a forensic audit being required."

She said it was essential to dig down and work out which of the two pictures was more accurate.

"If it is true and there is no money I find that amazing because the budget is $270 million. That is a huge amount of money. It raises the question of whether it's being spent in the right way."

The prospect of the return of the Council's property company was welcomed by Ms Evans, who said a lot of money had recently been directed away from real estate development into other areas of Council.

"Chris Simpson is the one talking about changing the political structure of the council to bring back some direct responsibility to councillors such as an infrastructure committee. That's a really really positive idea."

She said there were fears that council was too focused on vanity and "think big" projects to the detriment of basic upkeep.

Top pick for mayor:

"The jury is still out ... I'm certainly leaning towards Chris Simpson and I am also leaning towards those candidates who are strongly in view of a new approach to what's happening."

She said Rob Pascoe was a lovely man, but "I couldn't imagine anything more boring that an former Pricewaterhouse partner running the city".

Ms Evans said there was much more interest in this election, possibly due to the results of Brexit and the "Trump fiasco", and it was the first time in years she had heard of candidates door knocking.

"We've all been so concerned because only one in three people voted last time. That's pretty scary for democracy."

She was also heartened by the emergence of a number of candidates from different ethnicities putting their hands up, and hoped voters would avoid a council full of white middle-aged men.

RUSS RIMMINGTON 1998-2001

Biggest issue facing Hamilton:

"Fixing the CBD, because it's the image of our region. I know you will think I'm being outrageous, but it looks like a ghost town. It's an absolute shocker with bad planning from the councillors who need to take a look at themselves to see the debacle they have created - and don't blame The Base."

"The problem has to be parking. We're a rural town, and there's no bloody parking. It has to be free and we need to lower that differential on rates."

Russ Rimmington
Russ Rimmington

Top pick for mayor:

"My top pick would be Rob Pascoe. I think he has high integrity, he has a good professional brain. I think he will surround himself with talented people in the chairs.

"I think other councillors will respect him and staff will respect him as well. He's out of PriceWaterhouse, it shouldn't necessarily be a good numbers man but without a strong financial base a company or a council doesn't run effectively."

Mr Rimmington's second pick was Andrew King.

"Poor Julie has had six years of cleaning up the mess of Claudelands and the V8s. I think Andrew - and I've heard him speak, he's looking at social housing, he's looking at key infrastructure, he's trying to spread the cost not only on council but on other key stakeholders."

Third pick was Chris Simpson.

"He's got good experience in central government, good links to central government for cross funding, and Hamilton has had a very poor relationship with central government for many years. I would like him to have at least one term on Council - that's his Achilles heel."

DAVID BRAITHWAITE 2001-2004

Biggest issue facing Hamilton:

"It would be a constructive group of Mayor and councillors who would put the city first, instead of all the difficulties that the councillors and politicians produce.

"It needs the cooperation and working together much more effectively than councils of the past or the current one has been able to do."

David Braithwaite
David Braithwaite

Top pick for mayor:

"There's a new man who has come into the city, he's been in the city for a long time, he's not currently involved in the political scene in Hamilton - his name is Chris Simpson."

Mr Braithwaite said Mr Simpson would make an "appropriate and positive" Mayor.

"He's had significant experience in Wellington in the parliamentary environment, he comes across as a man who would try and get people working together, and that's what the city needs. What the city does need is some new blood."

Mr Braithwaite would not share a second or third pick, but said there were some councillors whose time had come to step down.

"There are a number of councillors who are standing again who have been there a long time, have done a lot of damage to our city over many years, and the public needs to get their minds around who they want to run their city."

BOB SIMCOCK 2007-2010

Biggest issue facing Hamilton:

"Primarily the major challenge will be managing growth. You've had a massive acceleration in demand for development and the city has got behind in making land available. That's the biggest challenge they face, and the effect of not delivering on that is that people pay higher section prices.

Top picks for mayor:

"As an ex-Mayor I am not taking any position on candidates. I haven't decided myself yet."

- Hamilton News

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