Mayoral hopefuls questioned

By Zaryd Wilson

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The Wanganui Chronicle mayoral forum was held on Thursday night. Photo/ Stuart Munro
The Wanganui Chronicle mayoral forum was held on Thursday night. Photo/ Stuart Munro

Those in the running for the Whanganui mayoralty put forward their pitch for the top job on Thursday night.

In the second-part of the Wanganui Chronicle mayoral forum, the six candidates present fielded a range of questions from the floor.

It was a chance for voters to get the candidates talking of the cuff about the issues they would be voting on.

On what the unique focus of the city should be:

Hamish McDouall said it was the river: "The river has such potential benefits to our businesses, to our tourism and to our wider spirit. It is the thing that brings tourists here, the whole entire river valley."

Alan Taylor said there were many opportunities in the unique industrial skills Whanganui had and in its productive land.

"The kind of things people make and do in this is unique - we need to sell that."

Helen Craig wanted to focus on the city's heritage buildings "because one day it will all disappear unless we look after it now. What we have here is unique in New Zealand and if we look after it now it will be absolute banking gold".

Andy Jarden supported the heritage idea and added that it should be sold as a tourist attraction on the same level Napier did with art deco.

"What a fantastic weekend they put on... we've got heritage weekend which is good but not a patch on Napier."

Randhir Dahya said there needed to be more than a single focus. "A single focus for the sake of investment in the end just fails."

Will Osborne said Whanganui already had a plan for focus and that was the district's leading edge vision developed by council in 2014.

On how they will handle opposition to their ideas:

Mrs Craig said "the job of the mayor is to help the councillors make the best decision they can. If it's a good idea it will fly if you give them enough information".

Mr Jarden said there was nothing wrong with strong debate. "Then you have a vote... and then it's incumbent, in an ideal world, for council to be collegial and that is support the majority decision."

Mr Dahya said in the past there had been recommendation committees which considered a wide range of views.

Mr Osborne said "if it was put to vote and my idea didn't come to fruition, the objective would change entirely and it wouldn't be about agreeing or disagreeing, the whole objective would be now to put that decision into reality".

Mr McDouall said "dialogue is important because dialogue by it's very definition demands that one person not speak while they hear the other, and vice versa".

Mr Taylor said "the mayor has but one - sometimes two votes - with a casting vote. Whatever the outcome the mayor is elected to represent the decision of the council... you sometime may have to swallow your pride and live with that".

On dealing with climate change and environmental issues:

Mr Taylor said the district plan was currently taking into account aspects of climate change including coastal retreat and flooding. "Those kind of issues sit well within the district plan. It is the plan that shapes your district - that is the way it is done."

Mrs Craig said "I would like to see that Whanganui was plastic free in five years time. The other thing I would like to look at is kerbside recycling and it's something I would like to look at in my third year".

Mr Jarden said "I think we all accept that global warming is happening and that we're going to see more frequent floods and first up we need a far more robust emergency response plan because they're going to happen. We can't stop it, we've just got to be prepared for it when it happens".

Mr Osborne said "there seems to be a bit of confusion where people think environmental friendly ideas are going to always lose money and ways to make money is always going to have a harsh effect on the environment. I don't think that's true".

Mr McDouall said he'd lobbied to set a 50 per cent reduction target in the waste going to Bonny Glen landfill, up from a proposed 25 per cent.

On building respectful relationships with councillors and community:

Mr Osborne said it was about creating an environment where people were comfortable putting forward ideas. "The most common compliment I have been given is I create a great environment for team members to reach their full potential."

Mr McDouall said "in council I've seen the worst behaviour from councillors saying the most undignified things and I would like to impose some restorative practices there to begin some respectful relationships".

Mr Taylor said it was about respect between councillors, the mayor and the staff. Issues should be work out over a cup of coffee, he said. "I as a mayor will not tolerate codes of conduct. They cost thousands of dollars."

Mrs Craig said there was not always good communication among councillors. "I do think we need to be training our councillors in effective communication and respect because they're not always."

Mr Jarden said "I think we need to encourage people to talk to each other not past each other. It's certainly a lot better way forward".

Mr Dahya said: A good chairman was there to guide the committee and keep them on track and that they must all respect each other. "I also don't believe in this code of conduct, I'd rather call them into the office and have a chat."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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