Bruce Bisset: Your local body, now your choice

By Bruce Bisset

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It's a shame Rob Lutter wasn't able to make the candidates meeting in Taradale on Tuesday.
It's a shame Rob Lutter wasn't able to make the candidates meeting in Taradale on Tuesday.

These triennials go round fast don't they? But here we are again, sorting through the pamphlets and promises to select our choices for local government - a task I hope more of you will participate in this year.

The buzz in Hawke's Bay this time centres on Napier and the regional council - for very different reasons. And with the Local Government Commission's evaluations still ongoing, it may be the last time citizens get to vote within any of the existing councils' boundaries.

So, this week, Napier.

Barbara Arnott was not perfect but Napier's council worked reasonably effectively under her mayoralty and, to be frank, I'm not sure any of the six candidates entirely measure up for the job.

David Trim and Roy Sye, with no experience on a council and nothing particularly outstanding to recommend them, are the back-markers in the field.

Councillor, perhaps; mayor, no.

It's a shame Rob Lutter wasn't able to make the candidates meeting in Taradale on Tuesday, as I'd liked to have seen how he matched up.

But his relative anonymity as a councillor suggests mayor is a step too far.

Which leaves the other three sitting councillors vying for the vote: Bill Dalton, Michelle Pyke, and John "Bertie" Cocking.

Cocking has had reasonable input as a councillor and his alter-ego is iconic, but there's a suspicion he's running for mayor just to "top off" the CV.

However that's probably doing him a disservice; he's been described as "empathetic" in his deliberations and he certainly has the enthusiasm, so perhaps he's the choice as an interim "change" leader.

Michelle is my heart choice, as I'm sure she would enhance the living environment by working to make the city viable for the "haves" and "have-nots".

But while she mightn't thank me for it, she's probably better suited in a councillor's role; hard work round the table is what she's best at.

Which leaves Bill Dalton. Bill's a bit of a bluff, verbose and sometimes ungainly character, but he surprised on Tuesday with his assured and good-humoured responses.

He won on points, and displayed "mayoral" qualities. But could he present so well in the job full-time?

Over to Napier to decide. Maybe a toss-up between Dalton and Cocking (though I don't see either as a long-term prospect), with Pyke a good through-the-middle chance.

Change will also happen among Napier's councillors, due to retirements and to Rob Lutter and Keith Price's decisions to jump ship from their wards to the "at large" contest.

This results in five incumbents in that race (Pyke, Faye White, and Tony Jeffery being the others) for six seats, making it tough for newcomers; but if I had one replacement to choose I'd pick Emily Otto - for her energy and gumption, and what that might add.

In the wards, Ahuriri's Mark Herbert has his strengths, but simply on the five-terms-is-enough principle I'd back Kim Mayne to replace him; while Onekawa-Tamatea is guaranteed a new councillor with a straight duel between Annette Brosnan and Richard McGrath.

Nelson Park's choices are a box of allsorts; Maxine Boag should be rewarded for her continuing high-profile work, but who will accompany her is far less clear. The community-spirited Ken Simons may have the edge.

As for Taradale, with two vacancies begging and five evenly-matched wannabes in the race, it's anyone's.

Of course you don't (and mayhap won't) have to agree with my assessments.

But please, especially as this may be the last Napier City election, study the field, select your choices, and vote.

Remember, a big turnout is the best argument against amalgamation.

That's the right of it.

Bruce Bisset is a freelance writer and poet.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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