A Little passion goes a long way in Wairoa

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Craig Little was re-elected Wairoa mayor. Photo / Duncan Brown
Craig Little was re-elected Wairoa mayor. Photo / Duncan Brown

Forever passionate about Wairoa, with a four-generation, century-long family history on the farm 39km up the road at Ohuka, re-elected mayor Craig Little is about to become even more passionate as he leads the district into a new era in his second term over the next three years.

At home yesterday, conceding that with election night convivialities behind him he felt more like "94" than his prime local government leadership age of 54, he was pleased with the council stability chosen by voters, returning all five councillors who stood for re-election, with Mohaka man Charles Lambert the only new face.

Mr Little, a one-term councillor when he successfully stood for mayor for the first time and ousted then-incumbent Les Probert in 20213, is safely installed with a preliminary majority of 724 over nearest rival and now departing councillor Benita Cairns (1863 votes to 1139).

Exiting the weekend, marked by a supporters and families Saturday night gathering in the 110-year-old, 418sq m Ohuka homestead, he will be in at the council offices today wants to get some "quick movement" going - the goals clockwork by Christmas and 10 days or so holiday with wife Jan.

She deserves it, he says, with their two daughters and two sons near-enough to on automatic now, having been in primary school or barely out of it when he first entered local body politics six years ago.

The eldest, Hannah, 20 is at Otago University for her Bachelor of Science studies, 18-year-old Alex is an apprentice diesel mechanic at significant Wairoa employer Council Controlled Trading Organisation and roading contractors QRS, William, 16, is at Lindisfarne College, where he's the student-elected representative on the Board of Trustees, and Claire, 15, is at Napier Girls High School.

"They really feel it hard, especially if you're getting criticism," he said.

"I've got a thick hide, and it gets thicker the more you get into it," he said. "But at the end of the day, we're not going to all agree all of the time. That is the wonderful thing about this council."

Where he hopes everyone agrees is on the positive future beckoning, boosted by the Rocket Lab development at Mahia, with scope for employment opportunities across a range of related aspects.

The town has relied on the size of its meatworks in the past, but he says there are other employers of size, such as QRS, with about 100 jobs, the council with about 50 jobs, Raupunga-based Pahauwera Shearing, with about 50 at peak, and Frasertown Meats, "about 20-30 at a guess."

In his own personal environment, where grandfather George was the first Little on the land working a Soldiers Settlement block after World War 1, there's still work to be done on the farm as the council work takes upwards of 40 hours a week of his time.

His wife, who was raised on a farm in South Canterbury, shoulders much of it, enjoying running around the farm with dogs Lucky and Moss as a helpful way of preparing for such things as half-marathons, and father Allan, now 83, helps, in addition to being "eyes and ears" for him in the community, and also the 10 hours at a time tractor mowing at the Wairoa Golf Club.

Mrs Little makes her presence in the council environment when appropriate, and as mayoress accepted the role three years ago of patron of the local branch of Age Concern.
Mr Little's introductions to governance were such offices as president of the Wairoa A and P Society and chairman of the Wairoa branch of Federated Farmers, and decided on a city hall pathway as he more and more found himself questioning the way the council was operating.

Mr Little says much has changed at the council over the last three years, with the reintroduction of standing committees, of which there are now five, with two more proposed.

He says it makes councillors more effective at their roles, with two councillors on each committee, with the result the full council meetings are more efficient.

"We had some biggies," he recalls of the days of council meetings lasting four hours, now down to as little as two hours and with "public excluded" time cut to a minimum.

But his own role will get busier, he forecasts. Council business takes over 40 hours a week, he estimates, and he drives into town almost every day during the week, in his Commodore which has clocked up over 120,000km in two years - council mileage remunerated at about 30c/km.

As it happens, mayors throughout the country are entitled to a mayoral car, so the situation may be reviewed.

He says the Remuneration Authority, which sets how mayors and councillors are compensated, is actually out of step with the notion that there's less to do for mayors in smaller areas.
"You probably do just as much," he said, "but you don't do it for the money."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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