Standing room only as Kaipara returns to democracy

By staff reporters

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New Kaipara Mayor Greg Gent (second from left) with new councillor Andrew Wade (left) at their swearing-in ceremony yesterday. Photo/Michael Cunningham
New Kaipara Mayor Greg Gent (second from left) with new councillor Andrew Wade (left) at their swearing-in ceremony yesterday. Photo/Michael Cunningham

It was standing-room only as Kaipara district returned to democracy with the swearing in of its new council.

It was one of four such ceremonies across Northland throughout yesterday, as the elected representatives across the region's four councils officially took up their posts following the October 8 election.

About 100 people crowded into Dargaville Town Hall to welcome new mayor Greg Gent and his eight-councillor team, as well as pay tribute to the three commissioners - John Robertson, Richard Booth and Peter Wider - who formerly led the district.

They, along with retired commissioner Colin Dale, were appointed by the Government in September 2012 to help resolve KDC's $80 million debt and serious governance issues.

Mr Winder will be staying on to manage some outstanding legal issues.

Yesterday, chair Mr Robertson stepped aside, describing the day as a "great moment for Kaipara".

"You can create a great council, be strong and be gracious."

Mayor Gent named former executive and Mangawhai resident Peter Wethey as his deputy. Joining them will be new councillors Libby Jones, Karen Joyce-Paki, Anna Curnow, Victoria De La Varis-Woodcock and Julie Geange. Jonathan Larsen and Andrew Wade were returning faces.

Mayor Gent thanked the commissioners. "We inherit something we can build on and its thanks to three of you," he said.

He told the public: "We are responsible for a lot of things that happen in your lives, and I can assure you on behalf of the councillors that we take that very very seriously."

Meanwhile in Kaikohe, Far North Mayor John Carter gave his councillors a headmaster's style lecture on the need to "do your homework".

He would not accept inane questions that could have been answered by simply reading the meeting agenda. Mr Carter also urged councillors to leave any personal issues outside the council chambers and focus on serving the community.

"Your job is to be visible. I don't want you to just pop up again in three years' time. There's a heck of a lot of work to be done," he said.

Far North councillors sworn in yesterday included two new faces. Dave Hookway - a mohawked public health worker who previously owned an award-winning takeaway shop in Waipapa - replaced Di Maxwell, who didn't contest the election. Kaitaia planner Felicity Foy ousted sitting councillor Dave Collard.

The other returned councillors are Willow-Jean Prime, Ann Court, Colin Kitchen, Mate Radich, Tania McInnes, Sally Macauley and John Vujcich. Ms McInnes was reappointed as deputy mayor.

At Northland Regional Council, Bill Shepherd was re-elected unopposed to chair a new-look lineup which includes two women councillors for the first time since 1998.

Second-term councillor David Sinclair was elected unopposed as deputy chair. The five new members on the nine-strong council are Jocelyn Yeoman, Penny Smart, Rick Stolwerk, Justin Blaikie and Mike Finlayson. Retaining their seats are Mr Shepherd, Mr Sinclair, John Bain and Paul Dimery.

"David and I are excited to lead a revitalised, keen and enthusiastic council which is collectively relishing both the opportunities - and challenges - the next three years will offer," Mr Shepherd said.

The new Whangarei District Council was also sworn in late yesterday, with incumbent Mayor Sheryl Mai reappointing Sharon Morgan as her deputy last week.

Whangarei's new elected representatives, joining 11 incumbents, were Jayne Golightly, Anna Murphy and Vince Cocurullo. Mr Cocurullo served the 2007-2010 term.

- Northern Advocate

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