Tilt at mayoralty considered

By John Maslinjohn maslin@wanganuichronicle co nz

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UNDER PRESSURE: David Bennett with his wife Marion after being made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in this month's Queen's Birthday Honours.
UNDER PRESSURE: David Bennett with his wife Marion after being made an Officer of the NZ Order of Merit in this month's Queen's Birthday Honours.

Whanganui businessman David Bennett will make a decision within the next fortnight whether or not to put has name forward as a mayoral candidate in the October local body elections.

Mr Bennett, executive chairman of helmet manufacturer Pacific Safety International Ltd, has been leading a ginger group keen to attract candidates to stand for council in the triennial elections.

And while the group has got together what he called a "mix of formidable people" as potential council candidates, he told the Chronicle yesterday pressure had come on him to challenge for the mayoralty.

"These people I've been working with this week turned on me and said I needed to be standing for mayor. They've even been in touch with my wife, Marion, and lobbied her."

Mr Bennett is heading to Australia for a fortnight's holiday but said he would be considering his options then and making an announcement when he got back to Whanganui.

He said he had been "under pressure" to stand.

"There's been a lot of talk because, for about the last four months, many people have asked me, many even expecting that I was actually going to."

In January he and some others went public, criticising the performance of the current council and hoping to encourage capable voters to think of standing.

"Since then we've had a group of like-minded people working on gathering a mix of formidable people with a view to encouraging them to stand. I have been one of them. With my business experience I needed to be among them," Mr Bennett said.

He said they now had a group of nearly 12 thinking about standing, each with a variety of real-life skills.

"None of us are satisfied that any of the current mayoral aspirants are best for the position of mayor of Whanganui. We want to see a leader with business governance experience and vision for the city. All I'm saying is that I am thinking what this candidature would mean for my wife and I, and that we will make a decision shortly."

He said the performance of the current council was not good enough and it wasn't just issues focused on the new wastewater treatment plant.

"But that is short-term, and anyone planning to take the mayoralty must display more than just concern about a sewage plant.

"There has to be a difference between governance and management at the council, and the arrival of the new chief executive [Kym Fell] gives me some hope. But Whanganui has to get itself going. We're sick of the dramas in Auckland. Our focus needs to be on our city and what we need to progress," he said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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