While much of the world has been focused on the United States and Donald Trump this weekend, in the tiny township of Whangamomona in Taranaki, the focus is closer to home.

Move over Donald Trump, the lastest president to be sworn in to office this weekend is John Herlihy.

Yesterday the Whangamomona township celebrated Republic Day, a biennial event which celebrates their self proclaimed independence from NZ.

In 1989 regional council boundaries were re-drawn, making Whangamomona part of the Manawatu-Wanganui Region. Residents objected, and in true Whangamomona style did so by declaring themselves a Republic.


Now over two decades on, the residents mark the event with Republic Day, electing their own president each two years.

This year's presidential elections has several candidates fighting for the top spot, and despite plenty of shenanigans on the day, including one candidate stealing some voting papers, the results were formally declared just after 3.3-pm on Saturday, with Herlihy named winner.

Herlihy was a late entrant in the race, having only decided to stand that morning. He had done plenty of campaigning in the pub beforehand he said and it paid off for him.

Herlihy beat incumbent president Vicki Pratt, who now holds the title of being the only Whangamomona president not to have died in office. Herlihy says he plans to be the second to hold this title.

Border control checkpoints were set up on the State Highway, as entry to the township required a Whangamomona passport. With no official road closure, and the State Highway being the only road in and out of the town, this confused some tourists who were just driving through.

John Lee and his family, visiting from Taiwan, were unsure as to why they needed a passport saying "we are in New Zealand aren't we?". John was further confused when he then had to wait for a sheep shearing competition, taking place on the road, to finish.

"It's very different, I don't think this happens anywhere else," he said, however he and the family soon decided to park the car and enjoy their unexpected detour. John and his wife voted for current president Vicki, "she must have done a good job, look how busy it is here," while his two teenage daughters voted for Ted the Cat.

The incumbent president, Vicki Pratt, held the presidency after the previous president Murt Kennard died while in office, and she was graceful in Saturday's defeat saying "the best man won".

Before the results were in however, Pratt had been more vocal in her plans for girl power to rule the day.

"When I was put in the role after Murt's death, some residents were worried, saying women would want the vote next, these elections I want to make it all about the female power."

To help her campaign for the day, Vicki enlisted the help of some of the NZ Women's Olympic rowing team, of which her daughter Kayla, is a member.

While Pratt and her husband own the local pub in Whangamomona, she wasn't the only pub resident to be standing for election. Ted the pub cat also stood for president. Pratt said the cat didn't worry her, "I am the only president who actually does grab the pussy on a regular basis. Ted is simply a pussy who will never be president."

Ted would not have been the first animal to be president, the role has previously been held by Billy the Goat and Tai the Poodle.

On foreign policy, Pratt said she didn't plan to copy Trump and invest in any weapon system, "the locals all have shotguns".

Lili Jiao, a social media editor from China now living in Auckland, also stood for president.
Jiao said if elected, she would like to bring more tourists to the remote area. Jiao travelled from Auckland for Republic Day after reading about in the newspaper. She wanted the experience of being a presidential candidate, however didn't really want the final job, choosing to vote for Pratt herself.

Another name on the ballot was Dave Rennie, the Chiefs coach. He had been in the small township along with the Chiefs Players, who are currently on a tour of the regions. On the official election whiteboard, he was listed as "a man with deep pockets".

The Chiefs players spent their time at Republic Day meeting locals, signing various items for the youngsters and participated in a tug of war competition. The Chiefs have been running their own competition amongst themselves while on tour, and the losers, Dave Rennie told the crowd, had to swim with the eels.

This was no idle threat and several rugby players did indeed find themselves in a trough of river water and eels to the amusement of spectators.

The final candidate was Captain Jack Spearrow, who was keen to point out the e in his surname. "It's a copyright thing."

He said, if elected, he would be introducing compulsory rum saturdays. When asked what he would change, he said his underwear.

While early voters indicated a preference for Ted the Cat, there was some concern as to his whereabouts. By 2pm, the NZME team had not seen the feline presidential hopeful and deputy mayor of Stratford, Alan Jamieson,even questioned the cat's existence. "Has anyone seen the birth certificate, he asked.

The cat turned up in time for the final vote tally, unlike fellow contender Jack Spearrow who had gone missing. He was last seen stealing some of the voting papers and local residents didn't seem too concerned as to where he may have ended up.

"Maybe he got scared and left, maybe he just got lost," suggested one bystander, Shane Gaunt.

Once sworn in to office by Stratford District Mayor, Neil Volzke - who was sporting an orange "make Stratford great again" baseball cap, Herlihy gave his first formal speech.

"From now on no rates will be paid to Horizons Council, the money will go to local kids instead," he declared to an enthusiastic crowd. Speaking later to NZME, Herlihy confirmed his stance on the rates, saying that bill was the one which "always hurts me to pay".