Council leadership across region shaping up

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CHANGE: Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule says there are a lot of people in line for the role of his deputy mayor. PHOTO/FILE
CHANGE: Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule says there are a lot of people in line for the role of his deputy mayor. PHOTO/FILE

Following a local body election of shock exits and new faces, more changes could be on the way as the leadership of the region's councils firms up.

All councils will be meeting in the coming weeks to induct those elected this month.

For the first time in 15 years, Hastings will have a new deputy mayor following the inaugural meeting of the new Hastings District Council next Wednesday.

As long as Lawrence Yule has been Hastings mayor, Cynthia Bowers has been deputy - a role Mr Yule said had always been fully supported by other councillors.

However, with Ms Bowers stepping down this year, however, the vacant seat was up for grabs.

Despite speculation of possible contenders, including newly elected councillor Damon Harvey, Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said no decisions had been made.

"We will informally meet with the councillors and work out who the deputy mayor is before the first council meeting next week.

"It's a group decision. There's lots of people in line for it and it will be a fully contested position."

Change appears to be on the cards at the Hawke's Bay Regional Council - where the nine councillors will vote for their chair, and deputy chair next Wednesday.

With the election of two new Napier councillors, any council majority could shift if just one were to group with the four Hastings, and Ngaruroro councillors. In the past two elections the chairman role was won by Fenton Wilson in a 5-4 vote.

Re-elected Wairoa councillor Mr Wilson did not say whether he would seek the role again - as he was talking to others to "get the best way forward for a new mix of councillors" - Hastings councillor Rex Graham has confirmed he will be putting his name forward.

Possibly a deciding vote, new Napier councillor Paul Bailey remained tight-lipped on whether he would vote for Mr Graham.

"I'll vote for the best person for the role, regardless of where they come from."

Hawke's Bay Today understands Hastings councillor Rick Barker and returning Napier councillor Neil Kirton could be suggested for deputy chair.

Yesterday Mr Barker said people had told him they would nominate, and second him as deputy chair. He would not say who they were.

Mr Kirton said he hoped to chair a committee, but would leave the chair, and deputy chair role to others, although he added "we'll see on the day".

In Central Hawke's Bay, new mayor Alex Walker said she had been focusing on building the team in the first days since the election, with the decision on the deputy mayor the first step.

She said it was a very clear decision that Ian Sharp, who had been in the role of deputy mayor for the past two terms, continue in the role.

"He offers a lot of credibility on many different levels and is crucial to the team," she said.

The status quo will remain at Napier City and Wairoa District councils, where the re-elected mayors have said they will be re-appointing their deputies.

Unopposed Napier Mayor Bill Dalton said it was no secret that at-large councillor Faye White would be re-appointed, as she had done a "tremendous job" in the role for the past term.

"At the end of the day Faye understands what a deputy mayor's role is, and the role is to deputise," he said. "I want somebody that makes the city proud."

Ms White said she was pleased, and honoured to take up the role again.

Any of the councillors could have filled the role, Mr Dalton said, adding he valued loyalty and saw no need for change.

Loyalty was also shown by re-elected Wairoa Mayor Craig Little, who had told long-serving deputy mayor Denise Eaglesome-Karekare she would fill the position for another term.

"She's 100 per cent loyal, and her heart is in it for Wairoa," he said. "For me, there's no one better."

Ms Eaglesome-Karekare - first elected in a 2002 by-election - has been deputy to two mayors over the past 12 years. First appointed in 2004 by Mayor Les Probert, then in his second term, she retained the role when he was ousted by Mr Little in 2013.

"When I was a councillor I saw her operate and I was really impressed," Mr Little said. "The more she serves, the better she gets."

Mr Little said he thought the other councillors would accept her re-appointment.

In Tararua, new mayor Tracey Collis will not be announcing her deputy mayor until the first council meeting next Wednesday.

Mrs Collis was due to meet with her councillors today to discuss their aspirations and skills regarding the various portfolios.

Long-serving chairman of the Hawke's Bay District Health Board Kevin Atkinson is considered to be the front-runner for the role.

• The inaugural council meetings will be next Wednesday for the new Hastings District, Hawke's Bay Regional, Central Hawke's Bay District, and Tararua District councils.

• The Inaugural council meeting for Wairoa District will be next Tuesday. Napier City Council's will be on November 2.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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