Mayor Staples to forgo elections

By Don Farmer don.farmer@age.co.nz -
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Adrienne Staples, seated, with Colin Olds, left, Julie Riddell, Solitaire Robertson, Viv Napier, Max Stevens, David Montgomerie, Brian Jephson, Dean Davies, and Margaret Craig. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER
Adrienne Staples, seated, with Colin Olds, left, Julie Riddell, Solitaire Robertson, Viv Napier, Max Stevens, David Montgomerie, Brian Jephson, Dean Davies, and Margaret Craig. PHOTO/HAYLEY GASTMEIER

The woman at the helm of South Wairarapa District Council for 12 years is stepping down in October to pursue a new venture.

Mayor Adrienne Staples surprised her councillors at the tail-end of yesterday's council meeting by declaring she will not be seeking re-election and will be quitting local body politics altogether.

Apart from just thinking it "is time", Mrs Staples has revealed she and her husband Don are embarking on a new business venture, milking sheep on their Western Lake Rd property just out of Featherston.

As she shed tears, an emotional Mrs Staples, 59, told the councillors she was not crying because she would be giving up the job but because they were a "fantastic team" who had taken her on a wonderful journey.

The new farming venture meant she would not be able to do justice to the mayoralty if she sought another term.

Mrs Staples said the council was in a good spot.

"I have had 12 happy years and the council is well positioned for the future," she said.

Stunned councillors all acknowledged Mrs Staples' input and leadership skills with several saying it had been a pleasure to work under her tutorship.

Mrs Staples was chairwoman of the Featherston Community Board before seeking the mayoralty in 2004 when popular incumbent John Read made it known he would not be seeking a further term.

She was regarded as the rank outsider in the hotly contested mayoral contest -- "being a woman and not having lived here for the last 100 years" -- pitting herself against a fellow community board member Garrick Emms and two sitting district councillors, Mike Gray and Kevin Lyford.

Her profile in the district was helped by her efforts to heal the wounds caused by the death of young Featherston girl Coral Burrows, murdered by her stepfather Steven Williams in September 2003.

In her role with the community board Mrs Staples co-ordinated a hugely successful Carols by Candelight evening which brought people together from throughout Featherston and further afield to grieve.

She vigourously defended Featherston's reputation in the face of criticism that arose after Coral's death, saying that although the tragedy had "tarred" the town it was a "great place to live" and people feeling sad and vulnerable did not deserve to be attacked by the media.

When the votes were counted she had an election night majority of 352 over her nearest rival Mr Emms. Mrs Staples has been twice challenged for the job since her first term, in 2007 and in 2010 by the same opponent, Robert (Bob) Petelin.

In 2007 she trounced Mr Petelin, securing five times as many votes as he did and in 2010 easily won again, not by quite the same margin.

Interviewed after her decision to step down, Mrs Staples identified leading the council in the Long Term Plan that identified 100 per cent discharge to land as the goal for wastewater, then finally getting consents as the pinnacle achievement of her Mayor decides not to contest next election

time as mayor ... "a biggie, but pretty boring".

While that was the most important achievement, Mrs Staples said the more satisfying were some that were "smaller in nature".

"The work my husband Don and I did in bringing the Passchendaele Exhibition to Featherston was a massive coup. It had a huge spin-off for Featherston, in particular, and brought more visitors here than it had in Auckland."

Mrs Staples said she also treasured memories of the role she played on the Re-enactment March Committee that last year commemorated the march by World War I soldiers from Featherston Military Camp over the Rimutaka Hill to Trentham.

"I will remember that re-enactment march for as long as I live and every time I drive over the hill and see the wonderful stone and steel commemorative wall at the summit I feel proud of the role I played bringing it to fruition," she said.

Other issues Mrs Staples singled out as memorable were getting the Greytown Town Centre development over the line in the face of strong opposition, the formation of the Cross Creek to Featherston cycle trail and work she was able to do representing the entire Wellington/Wairarapa region on the Local Government NZ National Council. A huge challenge, Mrs Staples said, had been having to help navigate the South Wairarapa district through three murders.

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