Party push in comeback

By Alexandra Newlove, Mike Dinsdale

1 comment
Mayor Sheryl Mai is the sole mayoral candidate not also vying for a ward position.
Mayor Sheryl Mai is the sole mayoral candidate not also vying for a ward position.

Party politics are back in Whangarei, with a series of mysterious newspaper ads yielding a 13-strong contingent vying for leadership positions in the upcoming elections.

The 13 candidates running on the Go Whangarei ticket sit with two mayoral candidates under the umbrella of TogetherTahi, Matt Keene and Ash Holwell. One other candidate listed a party affiliation, Robert Carpenter from Tu Kotahi.

The Electoral Commission released its provisional candidate lists for the October elections over the weekend. These lists will be confirmed tomorrow.

All up, Whangarei has six mayoral candidates, five of whom also seek councillor positions. A further 44 are running solely for councillor, including all the district's 13 incumbents. Mayor Sheryl Mai was the sole mayoral candidate not also vying for a ward position.

The last party politics trend in the district was in the 1990s, when the Progress Team led Whangarei District Council for two three-year terms under former Mayor Stan Semenoff.

Go Whangarei's mayoral candidate David Blackley said he would refrain from commenting until candidate lists were officially finalised tomorrow.

The commission's preliminary lists left out one Go Whangarei candidate and misspelled another's name. Go Whangarei had positioned its 13 candidates across the seven wards in such a way that it could potentially completely dominate the chambers if all were successful.

Mr Blackley was responsible for a series of Go Whangarei ads which identified the ticket but not the person behind it.

His ads sought people who wanted to bring "humility, accountability and common sense back" to the council.

TogetherTahi's Mr Keene said his party was formed with the aim of getting more diversity on the council. However, he said, they ended up with "two Pakeha guys", after several potential candidates pulled out once the enormity of what they faced hit home, with a Maori candidate withdrawing last week.

"It's important to represent and encourage te reo Maori, with around 30 per cent of our population identifying as Maori - and we wanted to get more diversity on the council to represent that," Mr Keene said.

"But ironically it didn't work out that way and we don't pretend that we represent local Maori, but we want to get the debate started about how do we get more diversity."

As well as standing for mayor the pair are standing for a ward seat - Mr Keene in Denby and Mr Holwell in Okara. Mr Keene said while they were having a double assault on the mayoralty, it was not a gimmick and they were not trying to denigrate the role of mayor. He aimed to get a more diverse bunch of candidates in the next local elections.

- Northern Advocate

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