Napier mayor Bill Dalton on career highs and lows

By Victoria White

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It is a wonderful feeling to be perhaps the only mayor in New Zealand running unopposed, says incumbent and future Napier mayor Bill Dalton.

Unlike others competing for roles around the Napier City Council table in the upcoming local body elections, with no opposition for the role he has held since 2013, Mr Dalton will be reappointed as mayor next month.

As the first in a Hawke's Bay Today series of interviews with local body candidates, Mr Dalton spoke with editor Andrew Austin on his support for the Ruataniwha Dam, policing in Napier, the achievements of his first term and hopes for his second.

It was a combination of the city's progress over the past three years, and a promise that this would be Mr Dalton's last term as mayor, which he believed was why no one had run against him.

"I think people thought 'well [we'll] give him another three years to finish the job, then watch him ride off into the sunset'," he said.

Running unopposed, and having been told he was the only mayor in the country to be doing so, could point to the fact he was "doing something reasonably well", Mr Dalton said.

He disputed the idea that people were too scared of challenging him to run, and denied making any deals with current councillors to get them to not run.

He said, "if others wanted the job, and they thought they were qualified, and they thought they could do a better job, they would have stood against me."

Although the current council has attracted critiques, and controversy for some of their decisions, Mr Dalton said "quite frankly, if you're not attracting criticism you're not doing your job".

"I think we've done pretty well," he said, "the city's in great shape, the city's in great heart. I've been proud to lead it through these last three years and I'm looking forward to leading it through the next three years".

When asked if he felt there were any mistakes during his term he said: "If you don't fail occasionally, then you're not trying hard enough. That's my view."

Mr Dalton added that he took a share of the blame for the Art Deco "bus debacle". "But thats been and gone and dealt with, we've moved on from there," he said.

Although his predecessor Barbara Arnott left the city "in extremely good financial shape", Mr Dalton said the city had begun to lack vibrancy and vitality. Among his achievements as mayor was bringing some this back.

This was achieved through projects, such as lighting up Clive Square, major projects along Marine Parade, and the largest capital spend ever in Napier - of $40 million last year.

Completing the Marine Parade redevelopment, and other projects begun in his first term were among Mr Dalton's top priorities for his next. He also hoped action would commence on a new swimming pool for the city - with proposals expected to be in front of council early next year.

Mr Dalton was also confident that if the proposed multi-use sporting facility could be funded, it would be built.

He said council were "quietly working" on the project - which attracted criticism when first coined as a multi-use velodrome - including meeting with potential funders and firming up promised funding.

With the promise this will be his last term, Mr Dalton already knows what he will be doing after hanging up the mayoral chains. After 12 years on the council, he said in 2019 it would be good to "throttle back, enjoy the grandkids, and enjoy life".

Although travelling with his wife Shirley was on the cards, Napier would remain home.

"My family have been here for over 150 years, and I've been here for all of my 65 years. There's no way in the world I'm going anywhere, I'm going to stay in Napier."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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