There will be little time for reading novels over Christmas for the Tararua District Council's new councillor, Kerry Sutherland. Instead Sutherland, who fills the vacancy left by Ernie Christison, will be getting up to speed by ploughing through the council's Long Term Plan, all 300 plus pages and its infrastructure plan.
"My style is to get on and fix things," he told the Dannevirke News.
"Getting on top of the problems with Route 52 is a big issue for council, but I think the Tararua council has done extremely well with its water infrastructure in Dannevirke and Woodville."
One area where Sutherland sees some vulnerability for the council is with rubbish and recycling.
"Trying to cope with this is going to be a big issue over the next decade and it's going to be costly, along with roading and our three-waters programme," he said. "
As the manager of Property Brokers in Dannevirke, Sutherland said he sees a continuing trend of higher levels of rating, which is stretching urban and rural ratepayers.
"We haven't hugely increased our resident numbers in the district and people who come here do comment about the high level of rates," he said.
"With average rating around $2800 a year, which includes both district council and Horizons Regional Council's rates, it's a worry because that's not far behind the rates in some cities. There's a fine balance between affordability and costs for council, with an ongoing battle to provide the best infrastructure against a fixed population base. I think we have to stick to our knitting and always consider the affordability."
At this early stage in his nine-month tenure as a district councillor (Sutherland isn't intending to stand at next year's local body elections), he is preferring to listen, rather than speak too loudly, just yet.
"The processes and governance of council aren't an issue, as I was a councillor in the 1990s and I don't have a problem with people touching base with me and I also keep in touch with both iwi," he said.
While a decision hasn't been made on which portfolios he will hold on the council, Sutherland said he is pretty relaxed with whatever role district mayor Tracey Collis sees for him.
And having attended his first council workshops, Sutherland said he appreciates all the work which goes on behind the scenes.