Kirton departing local body politics

By Sam Hurley

Hawke's Bay regional councillor Neil Kirton will not seek re-election at this year's local body elections after being appointed chief executive of the NZ Cancer Society's Central Division.

He said the administrative office for the Cancer Society's Central Division is in Palmerston North and a number of other lower North Island towns, proving too demanding for him to remain in local politics given his new responsibilities

"This will require my involvement in these centres on a regular basis, so I have decided not to seek re-election at this year's local body elections," he said.

The former Associate Minister of Health and Minister of Customs said he has had four very rewarding terms on the regional council after being first elected in 2001

"The HBRC (Hawkes Bay Regional Council) has made very positive progress in developing a broader vision for the region. When I first came onto council the focus was very much on supporting the pastoral farming sector. There is a newly emerging realisation that urban issues and regional leadership are just as important," he said. "I am pleased to have got involved in advancing a regional biodiversity strategy and for the development of open spaces for everyone to enjoy our great natural landscape."

During his term he took a strong interest in the national cycleway project in Hawke's Bay and sought to strengthen the HBRC's response to river protection. He also focused heavily on leasehold land issues.

"I have gained the most satisfaction through my association with the hundreds of Napier people caught up in the nightmare of leasehold property ownership," he said. "The plight of many elderly people coping with crippling 21-year rent increases was very disturbing. Many have been in their homes for a life-time and face great hardship when rents are renewed.

"Providing opportunities to freehold their properties has been a policy shift that has made a big difference to their lives and I am proud to have supported them," he said.

He looks forward to his new role with the NZ Cancer Society and said it was one of New Zealand's most iconic and respected community organisations that was "very close to my heart".

"Taking on this leadership role is a huge honour," he said. "The challenge is to ensure the organisation continues to meet the growing demand for services for people affected by cancer. The disease is the biggest cause of death in this country and the number of people developing and dying from cancer is increasing every year."


- Hawkes Bay Today

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