Wastewater scheme sure to back on the agenda

By John Maslin

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Whanganui's new Mayor Hamish McDouall relaxing at home with wife Elinor, nine-year-old son Bede (left) and daughter Elise (7). Photo/Natalie Sixtus
Whanganui's new Mayor Hamish McDouall relaxing at home with wife Elinor, nine-year-old son Bede (left) and daughter Elise (7). Photo/Natalie Sixtus

Hamish McDouall steps into the role as Wanganui's mayor fully aware that the community has indicated it wanted change.

There was always going to be change with three incumbents stepping down. But this election saw another trio ousted including Ray Stevens, Rangi Wills and Jack Bullock.

It means Mr McDouall leads a council with seven new councillors among the 12.

On Sunday he told the Chronicle that the immediate challenge for the incoming team was obviously going to be revisiting the $41 million wastewater treatment plant.

"It's entirely appropriate to have that as a priority considering the vote. It's reflective of the community's wish and I'm more than happy to hold a workshop very early on. We'll get the experts, whose advice council relied on, in front of the new council and go through all the information.

"At that point if they want to put that back on the agenda and vote again then we'll do it. It's important to have them (new councillors) understand the information we had when we made our decision in March."

Mr McDouall said another big issue which had "flown under the radar" was the matter of forestry roads and the impact logging will have on the district's roading network.

"It represents a major financial impact and that will need significant discussion. So will the whole issue of levels of service council can deliver.

The incoming mayor is already looking at meeting structure to make the best use of councillors' time and that means a return to the committee structure "as long as it doesn't overly impact on the time of council staff".

He would also be looking at having more regular but shorter council meetings: "The two-day marathons we have been having I don't think are inducive for good decision-making."

He said he was not a fan of portfolios (used under previous Mayor Annette Main's reign) preferring project-based leadership.

And there will be a deputy-Mayor.

"It's key role. Annette trusted me implicitly and I need to trust my deputy implicitly. I don't expect a 'yes' man or 'yes' woman but I certainly need someone who can give me advice as well," Mr McDouall said.

And expect to see very strict debating rules coming from the new Mayor. He won't be allowing policy decision-making "on the hoof".

"I'll expect everyone to come to our meetings thoroughly prepared."

The mayoralty will be a fulltime job for him and he has committed to two terms as mayor.

"I'm content where I'm at and may revisit national politics later in life," Mr McDouall said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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