Over and out for Whangarei council as election day draws near

By Alexandra Newlove

Add a comment
Whangarei's current council went over and out on Thursday. Pictured from left, staff Judi Crocombe and Carolyn Brindle, Mayor Sheryl Mai and chief executive Rob Forlong in chambers.
Whangarei's current council went over and out on Thursday. Pictured from left, staff Judi Crocombe and Carolyn Brindle, Mayor Sheryl Mai and chief executive Rob Forlong in chambers.

A sombre navy tie on Councillor Crichton Christie - in place of his usual wacky one - summed up the mood as Whangarei's council went "over and out" on Thursday.

"This is a day of mourning. It might be my last day," Christie half-joked.

Unusually, all 14 Whangarei district councillors are hoping to be back for more following the October 8 election result.

Their final meeting hung on variations of the phrase "if I'm back next time".

Councillors were cool but conciliatory as they adopted the 2015-16 Annual report, a document which trumpeted the council's balanced budget ($148.8 million operational revenue to a $136.6m spend), net debt reduction and $45.6m capital works programme.

The final act: Extending a contract value to allow for extra weeding and toilet cleaning around town.

Mayor Sheryl Mai avoided ending on this lacklustre note by preparing a few words for each of her councillors.

She told sometimes-rival and fellow mayoral candidate Stuart Bell he had been an "outstanding" councillor for drawing attention to the Local Government Act.

"And through the campaign you are raising the issue of community engagement," she told him.

Ms Mai said Susy Bretherton had driven council's "What's it Worth?" marketing campaign; had been an advocate for private property rights and put WDC's property transactions under robust scrutiny.

Mr Christie was valued for his work on the Hikurangi swamp, "wise head and experience" (and funky ties).

Tricia Cutforth had driven Whangarei becoming a Fair Trade District, was a staunch protector of heritage and a public toilet champion.

"Should you should be proud of a toilet?" the mayor said. "Yes you should. And community engagement has been something you've actively pursued."

Councillor Shelley Deeming was thanked for her work heading the Finance Committee, and Sue Glen for her work with the Quarry Gardens and "legendary" fight against another liquor store in Onerahi.

Ms Mai told Phil Halse that he had developed a blueprint for the city as chairman of the Inner City Revitalisation Committee and worked to clean up Kaipara Harbour.

Cherry Hermon's core causes had been CBD revitalisation, helping to bring the I Have A Dream Trust to town and the Mayor's Task Force for jobs.

Greg Innes got a good-natured ribbing for his broken record-style advocacy of his Whangarei Heads ward. He had also headed massive plan changes as chair of the Planning Committee.

Greg Martin was named as the council's roading and transport guru, Brian McLachlan as a selfless worker for his Onerahi community, while John Williamson had poured masses of time into chairing the district licensing committee.

Lastly, Ms Mai thanked her deputy, Sharon Morgan, who represented 15 organisations throughout her term. "What an amazing ability to spread your precious time around the community."

Ms Hermon thanked the mayor for her "outstanding community engagement and generous spirit", the latter allowing her to pay tribute to a "difficult" group.

Three protestors who had become a fixture in chambers - Warren Slater, Wayne Deeming and Brian May - as usual, sat in the public gallery with revolving signs accusing a mix of staff and councillors of various unscrupulous acts.

"It makes me sick." Mr Slater bellowed across the Forum North foyer as he left the meeting. "I'm not sure I'll bother next term."

So - not everyone was touched by the councillors' three years of community service.

This term's council will be remembered for high-profile projects such as completing the town-transforming Hatea Loop; getting the Hundertwasser Art Centre the tick; and (less fondly) for implementing a series of rates increases.

Councillors should also be acknowledged for the thousands of hours each one spent poring over mind-numbing agendas and plan changes; fielding calls from irate residents; and the countless evenings spent acting as a sounding board at ratepayer meetings - all part of an often unglamourous and thankless job.

Voting in the local body elections closes October 8.

- Northern Advocate

Get the news delivered straight to your inbox

Receive the day’s news, sport and entertainment in our daily email newsletter

SIGN UP NOW

Have your say

1200 characters left

By and large our readers' comments are respectful and courteous. We're sure you'll fit in well.
View commenting guidelines.

© Copyright 2017, NZME. Publishing Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf04 at 24 Apr 2017 12:47:12 Processing Time: 329ms