The new year is nearly here and for many of us it is a time of reflection and resolutions but for local elected representatives, 2019 will also bring a local body election.
We thought we'd gauge the thoughts of Northland councillors and give you, the voters and the ratepayers, a chance to hear from them.
The Northern Advocate asked all 42 elected councillors and mayors across Northland's four councils - Northland Regional Council, Whangārei District Council, Kaipara District Council and Far North District Council - the same three questions.
Those questions were:
1. What are you most proud of achieving in this term?
2. Will you be standing again in 2019?
3. What would you like to see happen in your district (or region) in the future?
Councillors and mayors were given two weeks to respond, via email, to the questions. In total, 29, or almost 70 per cent, replied with their answers.
We're publishing those responses in a series of stories. We'll also be pointing out those who didn't respond.
Nominations for the 2019 local elections will open on July 19 and close on August 16.
Voting documents will be delivered to houses between September 20 and 25. Votes must be in by midday on October 12 and preliminary results will be expected shortly after.
Today we're running seven of the responses from Whangārei District Council with the remaining five running on Monday. The council has 13 councillors plus mayor Sheryl Mai. Councillors Stu Bell and Greg Martin did not respond to our questions.
Sheryl Mai, Mayor
1. We have achieved a balanced budget over the last five financial years, an upgraded AA stable Standard and Poors credit rating, and reduced net debt from $156 million in 2013 to $113 million in 2018. All while maintaining and improving roads, water, wastewater and stormwater infrastructure, playgrounds, parks and reserves. We increased stormwater funding by 53 per cent in the Long Term Plan - an extra $34 million to be spent over the next 10 years.
We are making good progress toward a Civic Centre we can be proud of – this project has been on the council's books since 2009. We secured the Women's Rugby World Cup 2021 – which promotes women's sport, is good for our businesses and their staff, and reflects the confidence international codes have in our ability to co-host major events, such as recent British and Irish Lions and ICC U19 cricket games. We stuck to our focus on Plans and Strategies while bringing our community along for the ride. We completed the City Centre Plan, adopted a new Waste Management and Minimisation Plan and a new Sustainability Policy. Sealing Wright Road and transferring Mangakahia Road to NZTA as a state highway, plus resolving some long-standing legal issues are also highlights.
I loved attending as many community events and celebrations as my diary would allow – events and celebrations which reflect the pride, joy and involvement in our community.
3. I would love to see a four-lane highway from Whangārei to Auckland, passenger rail service returned, continued investment on preparing and planning for climate change and more community-led projects such as a great theatre, community facilities and more Shared Paths. We also must keep planning for a population exceeding 100,000, an ongoing commitment to honouring our culture and continuing the positive, vibrant, attractive and caring direction our district is heading in.
Sharon Morgan, deputy mayor, Mangakahia-Maungatapere ward
1. Some of my proudest moments as representative of the Maungatapere/Mangakahia Ward have been working with my community led groups to effect positive change across the area such as:
• The redevelopment of the Pakotai Te Oru Oru Recreation Centre tennis court
• Upgrade of kitchen facilities and construction of a children's playground at Mangakahia Sports complex to be completed in 2019
• Restoration of the Maungatapere Settlers Church by the local Lions Club and the creation of 84 tapestry pew cushions embroidered by volunteers for future generations.
During this term, being Deputy Mayor has been a privilege. It has enabled me to lead a number of key initiatives; chairing the Audit and Risk Committee, representing the council on various boards including environment, sports, arts, culture and heritage and community buildings. It has given me great satisfaction to see and meet so many people who are interested in making our place a 'nice place to live'.
2. Yes, I am committed to representing my community.
3. Build upon what the community has told us - I want to see the LTP delivered on, 'projects finished before we start something new and don't cut corners'.
Visually this means - It's a place where people want to live, it's a place of choice, people have jobs, strong Māori participation at all levels, diversity accepted, thriving arts community, architecturally designed open spaces and amenities for all peoples.
Crichton Christie, Denby ward
1. This term on the council I have been part of a working group who has been planning a magnificent park which will be located adjacent to the Hundertwasser Art Centre. I am really excited about this park which will be able to be used for community events, recreation and relaxation and will be very family friendly.
I am also very proud that this term we opened part of the Kamo shared path and I am really looking forward to its completion next year. When the path is finished it will allow my family and many others to cycle and walk between Kamo and town safely.
2. As a person with a positive outlook on life, yes, I do intend to stand again for council in 2019. I feel I still have plenty of fresh ideas, can listen to a changing community's needs and that I still have a lot to give this region.
3. In the future I'd love to see Whangārei become home to one of the major ports in New Zealand. This would boost our economy and provide more jobs for Northlanders. The Whangārei Harbour is the deepest in New Zealand making it ideal for larger cargo ships. Plus there is large flat area of land available for the expansion. A bigger port would need to come with a fully effective rail and road network to Auckland. If the Navy moved here too that would be another bonus for our region.
I would also like to see a 1000-seat theatre built in central Whangārei and for Pohe Island to be fully developed into a place for families and recreation. I also think we need another large sports park in Whangārei. It needs to be in a central location, easily accessible and big enough to allow for 20 years' population growth.
Vince Cocurullo, Okara ward
1. Proud to be able to support my wife in her endeavours and to stand beside her dreams and ambitions. Also, to fairly represent the public's view in the council, attending to my clients needs, as well as helping out the many volunteer groups I'm honoured to be involved with.
3. I'd like to see more economic and developmental growth within the District. Less congestion and better flow of traffic around the city, including increased parking facilities. And affordable rates for both businesses and home owners.
Tricia Cutforth, Denby ward
1. I'm proud of:
• Sustainable procurement guidelines for the council's own purchasing and tendering
• A corporate (council) sustainability action plan – the first step to bigger things!
• Ongoing work with business owners to revitalise Bank Street as a specialist/heritage precinct
• Money for additional bus shelters and seats – long overdue
• The success of Keep NZ beautiful week in Whangārei – and the growing understanding that reducing waste is the best way to avoid picking up rubbish!
• Enhancements at Otuihau/Whangārei Falls – a beautiful family/whānau/visitor space – all for free.
• Neighbourhood work being done by Russell Road residents around beautification, road safety, footpath improvements
• Community infrastructure in Otangārei - toilets, playground, beautification, planting and stream cleanup, additional walkways
• The Kamo cycleway project – connecting communities and supporting healthy lifestyles
• Whangārei District Council became a Living Wage Employer this year – just quietly, with no need for fanfare.
2. I hope to.
3. I'd like:
• An economic development plan for the Whangārei district – practical, focused, action oriented
• The development of the Hihiaua Cultural Centre – an authentic, indigenous facility at our Town Basin area
• A performing arts centre for dance, theatre and all forms of music, from the national symphony orchestra to local concerts
• More modern, fit for purpose council-provided housing for our growing population of older people who rely solely on superannuation
• A focus on retaining, valuing and promoting our heritage – buildings, natural features and stories. I believe our native bush covered volcanic cones, and our stone wall rural landscape are unique characteristics of our district that are yet to be truly appreciated
• A EXPO event as has been held in the past, where the council showcases all the different types of work we do, and where residents can come and see how their money is being spent.
Sue Glen, Okara ward
1. Working with residents of Keyte Street and making sure the road safety precautions are met.
Representing the Quarry Gardens since 2010 on behalf of the council and witnessing the on-going outstanding beauty of this attraction, noting the recognition from the public via Trip advisor.
Trustee on the Paper Mill and council representative as welI, I consider this a privilege.
I think the best dollar for value spent is the revamping of the Onerahi Airport building - goes to show how an extension in simplicity can be so effective. I was on the working group with this project.
Trusteeship and council representative on the NorthAble Disability Trust Board - this is a fine organisation that works so hard for its specific community.
2. Yes, I will be standing in the 2019 election.
3. This has been decided by the adoption of the Long Term Plan, my role is to make sure that community does see the end result, when they have requested a project.
Gavin Benney, Denby ward
1. I have now been in the council for 12 months and I am proud of all that I have learnt in that time. The first few months were spent listening, understanding the role and building relationships. I now feel that I am in a position that I can really contribute to the progress of Whangārei.
I have continued to be active in the community and am in regular contact with a number of organisations, not just in the Denby ward. It was great to be part of many decisions that will drive this district forward.
2. It is an exciting time to be involved with the WDC and my intention is to put my name for reelection in 2019.
3. Bringing events to Whangārei like the Womens Rugby World Cup and working on the development of the city core are real positives and I fully support this type of initiative.