South Wairarapa mayoralty race heats up

By Hayley Gastmeier -
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Liz Mellish
Liz Mellish

Competition for the South Wairarapa mayoralty has escalated with another contender throwing her hat in the ring.

Featherston businesswoman Liz Mellish has confirmed she is standing for mayor in the upcoming local government elections when Adrienne Staples steps down after 12 years in the top job.

So far Mrs Mellish will be up against sitting councillor and South Wairarapa deputy mayor Viv Napier and Martinborough resident Graham Higginson, who have both confirmed they are seeking the mayor's job.

Featherston ward councillor Colin Olds has also expressed interest in the role.

Mrs Mellish (nee Love), 65, was born in Masterton, schooled in Carterton then went on to Kuranui College.

She settled in Featherston when she was 17 years old and with her childhood sweetheart, Graham Mellish, and raised three girls there.

Running for mayor had been at the back of her mind "for a little while" but it wasn't until she learned Mrs Staples would be giving up the role in October that she started seriously thinking about it.

"I am at that time in my life where I have chaired many things and been involved in many things at a business level and a community level.

"I have a lot to offer the South Wairarapa and Wairarapa as a whole," Mrs Mellish said.

She and her husband owned a milk run in Featherston from 1975 to 1997, and then established the fish smoking business on Fox St called Hoki Smoke which they ran for 16 years.

She has worked as a public servant in Wellington for the Ministry of Maori Affairs and is a former board member of the Wairarapa District Health Board.

Mrs Mellish set up a consultancy mentoring service for Maori business, serving clients from the greater Wellington region and as far south as Nelson.

The former Featherston Community Board member has served on Greater Wellington Regional Council's Natural Resource Management Committee, and is an accredited resource management hearings commissioner.

"I'm quite confident with leadership and economic development," she said.

"What I think I can bring is a good understanding of business and how to work with elected representatives for good collective decision making."

Mrs Mellish supports the amalgamation of Wairarapa's three councils, saying she "will ensure the people of South Wairarapa are well served by any changes".

But by the same token, she is "a strong advocate of the retention of people-centred council services".

"I want to see the South Wairarapa maintain the strong resilience that this community has demonstrated over many years."

She said as many of the sitting South Wairarapa councillors would not be seeking re-election, she was excited to potentially be working with a fresh team.

"I'll give it my absolute earnest and best shot," Mrs Mellish said. "And whilst I haven't been an elected person, I believe I have a good understanding of how local government operates.

"A culture of transparency, good communication and caring for people is important to me and I will advocate for all citizens to have the opportunity to be part of the local government decision making process."

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