Elections 2013: Rotorua's council candidate profiles

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Today, we continue to ask Rotorua's 31 district council candidates four questions with a 200-word limit. Elections will be held by postal ballot beginning today and ending midday on October 12. Here are their responses.

The council chamber In Rotorua.
The council chamber In Rotorua.

The questions:
1. What do you think is the biggest issue facing Rotorua right now?
2. Should we be reducing debt or building infrastructure?
3. How would you breathe new life into the Central Business District?
4. Why do you stand out as a better candidate?

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait (incumbent)
1. The need for a compelling vision, clearly articulated and shared by everyone. It should enthuse and motivate our community. If people don't see themselves reflected in the vision they won't support and work to achieve it.
2. Most businesses carry a debt they can service. RDC is no different. We have focussed for some years on getting infrastructure improved and further developed. Now it's time to knuckle down and focus on debt reduction over the next five to eight years.
3. The CBD should be renamed Inner City Precinct. We should canvass new ideas and concepts from those who have a vested interest in the area and from those who want to see it survive. Shopping has changed over the years, so must this former main shopping location if it is to thrive again.
4. I was elected in 2011. What an eye opener. I get impatient with the waffling that often masquerades as debate. RDC impacts on our lives in so many areas so it's important that we get it right.

I am a decisive, clear thinker. I bring a wealth of experience to the role of councillor and I am not afraid to address the hard issues. RDC is a business after all - your business.

Kingsley Ridings (new)
1. Rotorua is faced with a major issue of trying to bring people to live in this district so we have the opportunity to grow. Promoting the area as a top place to work and live is paramount. More effort and support of the business community in creating jobs is required. Outsourcing of work to other areas has to stop because we miss out on the spin-off effects.
2. Debt reduction is paramount for our district. We have sufficient infrastructure at present so until our population grows significantly we should take the time to consolidate debt. The burden of our defunct airport has increased our debt to crisis point. Borrowing to service debt should not be an option.
3. Our CBD needs a good kicking, boots and all. Landlords holding out for excessive rentals in the CBD need to be charged a fee for un-rented properties. This may encourage them to drop their rental fees making it possible for new businesses to be successful.
4. I have a lot to offer by way of common sense and do care about our district. I am level-headed and take the time to assess the situation before making binding decisions. I do weigh up both sides of an issue before coming to a consensus.

Glenys Searancke (incumbent)
1. The biggest issue facing Rotorua right now is unemployment. We need more people in more jobs, jobs that pay a decent wage that would allow more of our population to have a discretionary dollar in their pocket. This would improve our economy.
2. We must reduce some debt. Otherwise future councils will be hamstrung and will not be able to build any infrastructure. Some infrastructure will have to be built, such as the finishing of sewering our lakeside communities, but that debt is mainly loaded onto the ratepayers of those areas.
3. Remove some centre of the road parking which will give a feeling of space and a lot less "cluttered" look. Look at a possible new layout of the CBD by reducing the footprint for retail and encouraging commercial businesses such as accountants, lawyers, insurance companies, etc into the fringe CBD.
4. I am a community-based person. I serve many community organisations in a voluntary capacity and have done so for many years. Whare Aroha, Contact Trust, Musical Theatre, Hockey Assn and the Brass Band. I know what makes this city tick and I am willing and serve as a councillor for a further term.

Victor Storey (new candidate)
1. I believe one of the biggest issues facing Rotorua is a council that is not listening to its residents, believes that it knows best, but has run out of fresh ideas. Rotorua needs fresh blood, it needs change.
2. We need a balance between reducing debt and spending on infrastructure. If we don't start reducing debt it will eventually get out of control which will put undue burden on future generations. However, it is important that we continue to invest in infrastructure so that we set up future generations with the best opportunity to succeed.
3. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed before I believe that people will return to the CBD. These include a sense of safety, parking and better understanding of what residents want, given the current urban sprawl and retail development that is occurring.
4. I believe I am a candidate that is willing to listen to the residents of Rotorua and act on their behalf. I am a professional accountant who will be able to bring a balanced view to council's finances and a desire to hold council departments accountable.

Charles Sturt (incumbent)
1. The greatest challenge is promoting economic growth and creating a vibrant, inclusive community with a "can do" council culture that encourages new jobs, development and industry.
2. Over the next three years there is no need to build vast infrastructure unless it's going to be required for expansion of industry. The sewerage, water, open spaces and roading are meeting growth expectations at the moment.
3. Encouraging landlords, leasees in the CBD, and council, to think outside the square and bounce off the success that is Eat Streat will be my priority. Let's bring proposals to council and see what can be achieved.
4. I don't consider myself to be any better than any other candidate but I have a track record of standing up for the rights of all ratepayers and residents, regardless of status, and advocating for what's in the best interest of individuals, sectors or groups within the community. For example - Exeter Place, Western Road and Ngongotaha.

Tania Tapsell (new candidate)
1. Stagnant growth - we need to create an environment that is attractive to live, learn and work in. This is important for improving local skill levels and socio-economic status of residents, therefore increasing purchasing power and growing our economy. The more we grow our population the more we can share the costs of our assets.
2. Debt from borrowing is closely linked to investment in infrastructure. If spending is structured and prioritised properly then we can ensure we're gaining benefits from investments and decreasing our long-term debt.
3. By allowing a permanent two hours' free parking initiative that encourages shoppers into the city. As well as promoting a "buy local" campaign within the CBD to boost awareness of local businesses. And continue to encourage projects such as the night market.
4. I have a heritage that links back to the forefathers who built and developed Rotorua. I have a sincere desire to carry on the legacy of growing Rotorua. I will be the youngest councillor Rotorua has had at age 21 years and already have a proven background in representing our district at a governance level - for more information find me on Facebook "Tania Tapsell" or email vote - tapsell@yahoo.co.nz.

Ratu Tibble (new candidate)
1. Hospitality is our single largest continuously growing industry. Support is required in every sector of this industry. Attached to hospitality is employment.
2. Council debts are reasonably stable. The Annual Report debt ratio spending is being carefully monitored. Current economic circumstances will in the new term increase rates demand. It's belt-tightening time. Building infrastructure is a continuing process.
3. It is important to increase income and reduce spending. I believe in a free market system where business judgment rests with the investor. These are issues of risk management and council may be contributing to the risk and see it as an individual need.
4. As a former city councillor I bring invaluable experience into council. I understand long-term planning well. Policy decisions are constantly being challenged, adapted and changed. It is a balancing act and I have the patience to listen and to provide a carefully considered opinion and to be forceful when necessary.

Mericia Waqanimaravu (new candidate)
1. Vibrancy. We need to create a vibrant and bustling city that promotes growth, investment and opportunity for our residents and future investors to the region.
2. We should always be working on reducing debt no matter what and aiming to decrease the cost to ratepayers. Investment into building infrastructure should occur when the needs of the district necessitate this through population growth projections and safety requirements of the region.
3. By working with landlords and the business community to see the best way forward in attracting new business to the CBD. Having a safe CBD is crucial and working with the police and the Ministry of Justice will be crucial, especially around the courthouse and the negativity it attracts. Looking at more innovative ways of having shopping districts would be a great forward step and working with current businesses to remain sustainable at their current sites.
4. I am energised, fresh and ready to represent the people of Rotorua. I am passionate about making our city vibrant through many sectors and believe that the views of the people are first and foremost. It is time for change, time for action and time for us to provide our own opportunities. Vote Vibrancy. Vote Waqanimaravu.

Janet Wepa (incumbent)
1. We need a vibrant and prosperous Rotorua. Our "Famously Rotorua" campaign will help promote what our city has to offer. It also aims to change the perception of locals - reminding them that this is a great place to work, live and play. I will also continue to support our economic development strategy to grow our city and implement our four-step plan to reduce debt.
2. We are currently doing both. We have a four-step plan to tackle debt and while we need certain infrastructure projects, these will be chosen with more care for our current situation.
3. Our city should be renowned for its dynamic public spaces and to do this I fully support the new Eat Streat development, free wi-fi, free parking and new seating. We have already engaged in consultation with local business owners and appreciate their continued support and welcome any further ideas that they may have.
4. After serving on the council for 10 years I believe my experience as the chairperson for Corporate and Customer Services, chairperson of Support for the Elderly and as a Resource Consent commissioner, among my other duties, ensures I have the knowledge and skill to communicate and to lead.

Waitsu Wu (new candidate)
1. We need to grow economically to create more employment and increase our population. Our council has to recognise they are there to serve and to listen to community concerns.
2. We need to change our council's mind-set from a regulating culture to a serving culture, and from a culture of spending to a culture of reducing debt.
3. We need a long-term plan and need some miracles to make it happen. But we can have some short-term plans first. How about council developing a plan for business owners to set up a business in the CBD to encourage more shops opening? Attract more people to visit the CBD by giving away a free small mud pack to visitors from City Focus, create more free parking areas, create a street of unique Rotorua character to attract people. Promote more community tours such as special days for special groups to go shopping in the CBD.
4. I am new blood and I am different. I have a different way of looking at council's financial borrowing. I don't think council has the right to borrow money without consulting the community. Especially when the borrowing has nothing to do with essential infrastructure purposes.

June Parata (new candidate)
1. Council debt caused by flippant expenditure is one of many major issues facing Rotorua.
2. The reduction of council debt is vital, however this must not include efforts that will impact to the detriment of the people, or our city. Debt reduction will inevitably enable the strategic planning of building infrastructure that is also needed for our city to function successfully.
3. There is no one solution. However, this requires fresh and innovative thinking between the new council and all stakeholders. The rejuvenation of our CBD is a must and with the move toward suburban malls becoming the trend, the council will have to look at ways of looking after our current businesses that are situated there. Perhaps the ultimate, reduction of lease prices?
4. I believe in the future development and success of our city and will ensure that all practices required are adhered to, in particular the significance of cultural partnerships are prioritized and exercised accordingly.

Carolyn Santiago (new candidate)

1. We've become bogged down, cumbersome, slow-moving and conflict-ridden. Rotorua needs a crisp, clear positive picture showing where it's going and how it will get there.
2. Council debt is too high. It feels like we're on the brink of a crisis. A complete review of spending is needed. I'm aware of extravagance and waste. We need to reprioritise, economise, defer expenditure and increase debt repayments. If that means less staff, older vehicles, less window-dressing, so be it.
3. This is an opportunity to embrace contemporary urban design principles. As we move towards peak oil, essential services will increasingly move to suburbs. There is enormous potential if we take bold steps now to realign Rotorua as the South Pacific's spa capital with a CBD characterised by spacious, green, pedestrian-friendly areas, a hub for health/wellness retreats, recreation, entertainment.
4. We need diversity in council to better represent the community as a whole. I've first-hand experience of economic pressures low/middle-income families face. I've worked locally for budget services, Plunket, QE Health, Age Concern and Community Rotorua. I understand community sector values and priorities. I'm a business owner/employer. I understand commercial realities with my business growing in tough times. My skills and experiences will usefully complement others'.

- ROTORUA DAILY POST

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