Election contest good for Flaxmere

By Victoria White

1 comment
Hopeful Lynlee Aitcheson-Johnson is contesting the Flaxmere seats against the two-term incumbents. PHOTO/FILE
Hopeful Lynlee Aitcheson-Johnson is contesting the Flaxmere seats against the two-term incumbents. PHOTO/FILE

With six years since the last contest for the Flaxmere ward on Hastings District Council, incumbent councillors say competition for their seats is healthy.

Henare O'Keefe has sat at the council table since 2007. One of those he contested against for the ward's two seats was long serving Flaxmere councillor Keriana Poulain.

In 2010 her vacant seat was won by her daughter Jacoby, against Tracee Te Huia. In 2013, the incumbents were re-elected unopposed.

Up until days before nominations closed it appeared 2016's election would be the same as the previous one. However the incumbents say they welcome contesting the Flaxmere seats with Lynlee Aitcheson-Johnson.

That was the reality of standing for public office, Mr O'Keefe said, "and that's democracy, and long may it continue I say, because it keeps you honest, keeps you on task.

"I genuinely think it is healthy because otherwise people do get complacent, we all get into our comfort zone."

Ms Poulain also felt it was for good democracy that they were having to contest a seat.

"We were privelaged Henare and I to be re-elected unnoposed last time," she said, "having Lynlee run just gives our community an extra person to consider.

"At the end of the day it will be the community who decide who is the best person."

Mrs Aitcheson-Johnson said although there was a sense of competition, "it's an election, and democracy is good".

She felt having the seats contested was healthy for the Hastings suburb, adding she had been nominated to stand by people who felt after not having an election in six years, the community wanted one.

if elected, she felt she could work well with Mr O'Keefe, or Ms Poulain in providing a strong voice for the community.

Walking the streets of Flaxmere for her campaign had been insightful, and Mrs Aitcheson-Johnson said she had enjoyed listening to the community's concerns, and what they hoped was achieved.

As the incumbents had been re-elected unnopposed in 2013, Ms Poulain said this meant they pair did not have to campaign. Instead, they began planning what they would work for, and what they hoped to achieve in the upcoming term.

This year, Ms Poulain said she had concentrated on the campaign, while also thinking about plans for the next term if re-elected.

"Campaign time for me isn't just a few week issue, or a few months, its a build up of the years before," she said. "Campaign time is just time to get out into the community again and show what I've done and what I hope to do."

Mr O'Keefe said, "without sounding up myself, my campaign started 40 years ago."

"I've never campaigned as such," he said, "I've put up the billboards, and I'm not saying the others don't do this but I'm out there very day 24/7."

When asked if there was any competition between himself and Ms Poulain, he said there was a healthy "competitive edge".

"You wouldn't be entirely truthful if you said there wasn't when you throw a third party into the ring," he said.

"But we don't mention one another in derogatory terms. We're very close, we were friends before we were councillors, and we have together achieved some wonderful things for Flaxmere."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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