Natalie Akoorie

Natalie Akoorie is a reporter at the NZ Herald based in Hamilton.

'Dirty tactics' can't mar victory

Re-elected Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker celebrates her win with her previous deputy, Gordon Chesterman. Photo / Rhys Palmer
Re-elected Hamilton Mayor Julie Hardaker celebrates her win with her previous deputy, Gordon Chesterman. Photo / Rhys Palmer

Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker has been returned to the city's top post in a close race against rival Ewan Wilson that was marred by dirty tactics and strange antics.

Hardaker called it a "good win, a significant win and a good margin that wasn't as close as last time".

She beat Wilson by a mere 2800 votes.

Her victory defied a last minute move by fellow mayoral candidate Dave Macpherson to bow out of the race, urging his supporters to vote for Wilson.

Hardaker dismissed the notion of dirty tactics and said she had focused on the issues.

She said Macpherson's move was "political game-playing".

Her first task as the first second-term mayor Hamilton has seen since Margaret Evans, in the 1990s, was to meet the new line-up of councillors and get to know them.

They included retired Waikato road policing chief Leo Tooman and former Act Party president Garry Mallett.

She would also support a fluoride referendum, which showed 70 per cent of Hamiltonians wanted it put back in the water.

"This is the decision and I've said I'll follow whatever the referendum decision is."

On bullying among council staff, allegations of which have plagued the council for the past two years, Hardaker said there was "no substance" to the assertions by Macpherson that council staff were being harassed by their senior managers. Meanwhile, a defeated Wilson has vowed to run for mayor in a future campaign, citing "last minute dirty tactics" as one of the reasons for his loss.

Wilson, who was returned to the city council in the west ward, said giving up was "not in my vocabulary".

He said if his own votes had been combined with the votes given to Macpherson, "I probably would have won the election. I would have won by 54 votes."

He was proud of his campaign, which he called honest and robust, but criticised his opponents for "the vicious attempts that have come out in the last couple of weeks to make sure I didn't get the top job."

They included a Facebook page entitled "The Unofficial Autobiography of Ewan Wilson" where articles about his past fraud conviction and failed Kiwi Air airline were posted.

An unknown woman called Wanda Lee circulated the information on social media but Macpherson believed it was posted by a failed council candidate.

There was also an email from a Hamilton lawyer, sent to every other city lawyer, questioning whether they wanted a "convicted fraudster" as their mayor and endorsing Julie Hardaker.

Wilson's running mate and re-elected councillor Martin Gallagher called it a "sustained and orchestrated" attack on Mr Wilson's character.

Gallagher said he believed the underhanded tactics might have derailed Wilson's campaign and cost him the victory.

He called for a review of local government legislation regarding third party campaigning to make any funding and assistance to candidates transparent.

He also congratulated "battler" Macpherson for getting back on the council after giving way in the mayoralty race.

- Herald on Sunday

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