Two more plan to chase city's top job

By Doug Laing

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Two more Napier City councillors have announced plans to contest the city's mayoralty, creating a dilemma for local-government amalgamation opponents now lining up for the position being vacated by Barbara Arnott.

Two-term councillor and retired sharebroker Bill Dalton and first-term former beneficiary advocate Michelle Pyke yesterday confirmed they planned to join three-term councillor, qualified accountant and Art Deco identity John Cocking in an election scheduled to be decided on October 12.

Among six "at large" members on a council also including six representing electoral wards, they share amalgamation opposition, risking a vote-splitting advantage to amalgamation lobby A Better Hawke's Bay if it gets preferred choice and lawyer Stuart McLauchlan to the polls.

But while the soapbox is starting to crowd, officially no nominations have been made. None can be made before July 26, and candidates have until August 23 to ensure their names are on the ballot papers.

Mr Dalton, who helped form the Hawke's Bay Democratic Action Association, which is lodging a submission to the Local Government Commission as an alternative to a five-council merger proposal by ABHB, is not planning a tactical backdown.

He said he's done more work than other candidates on opposing the amalgamation plan, and added: "I believe that I am the best candidate to lead Napier into the future, especially the uncertain immediate future."

Ms Pyke said she was "open" to reconsidering her plans to become Napier's second first lady if fellow amalgamation-opposing candidates believed their combined challenges could split the vote and enhance a merger supporter's chances.

Mr Cocking, whose intention to stand was announced within hours of Mrs Arnott's revelation last week that she wouldn't seek a fifth term, said with the amalgamation issue still wide open he hadn't considered the possibility "at this stage".

The three are the only people to reveal their mayoralty hopes to Hawke's Bay Today so far, while yesterday deputy mayor Kathie Furlong adamantly dispelled rumours she might join the queue, having announced last December she was retiring from local-body politics after 18 years on the council: "I made up my mind three years ago."

All three prospective candidates have indicated they would not put their names forward if Mrs Arnott were still available.

Ms Pyke said: "I thought she would stand. She floored us all that day last week when she told council."

Meanwhile, the HB Democratic Action submission to the Local Government Commission is expected to be lodged today, two days before a deadline set at the end of March after considering a proposal from ABHB calling for a merger of the Hawke's Bay Regional Council, Napier City Council, and the Hastings, Wairoa and CHB district councils.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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