The first challengers to Northland's current elected representatives are emerging - with two relatively young contenders the first to step up in Whangarei.

In Kaipara, Ruawai farmer and businessman Greg Gent seemed to be the lone voice expressing interest in the mayor's chair, ahead of October's triennial Local Government Elections.

Dean Campbell, 21, and Gavin Dawson, 34, were the first Whangarei District Council challengers. Thirteen of the 14 current councillors confirmed they would stand once again, with Denby's John Williamson still deciding.

Mr Dawson, in the process of completing a Masters degree in governance, had spent much of his life working in governance and policy roles for central government. The Onerahi native was running in the Okara ward and said there was a poor understanding of the difference between governance and management at WDC.


"What they haven't looked at is the use of public-private partnerships and I see there could be more creative use of targeted rates [and] surcharges," Mr Dawson said.

A lack of planning around Riverside Dr and the current commercial rating system were among the top issues for the Okara ward, Mr Dawson said.

Bream Bay contender Dean Campbell wanted to address the city's lack of opportunities for youth, having struggled himself with finding work on leaving school.

"If council encourages businesses to hire young people, small companies particularly, we could have a system of helping with rates, advertising, things like that," he said, adding he would also help facilitate NorthTec's move to the CBD.

Living in Raumanga, Mr Campbell said the key issues in Bream Bay appeared to be around boating and roading infrastructure.

Meanwhile in Kaipara, high-flying farmer and former Fonterra director Greg Gent was pondering whether it was time to give back to his hometown via a run at the mayoralty. Mr Gent, chairman of Southern Cross Healthcare Group, FMG Insurance, Dairy Holdings and deputy of the Plant and Food Research Board, said his "reasonably busy" schedule made it a decision that needed careful consideration.

Kaipara would return to a democratically elected council in October, after four years under government-appointed commissioners, who Mr Gent said had done a "superb job". Heading the review committee whose findings resulted in the appointment of the commissioners had given him "a bit of a look inside the council".

"There's still issues around infrastructure in Kaipara and understanding what we've got to spend to keep infrastructure up ... [including] making sure Mangawhai doesn't grow in a haphazard manner."

Thinking of running? Get in touch at or 09 470 2837. Candidate nominations open July 15.