RotoruaMayor

The battle for the Rotorua mayoralty has already started. Five people have so far put up their hands including incumbent Steve Chadwick, and Reynold Macpherson – the man who came closest last time.
Reporter Zizi Sparks gives her opinion on why local body elections matter and what's at stake for voters.

COMMENT:

Steve Chadwick and Reynold Macpherson are more alike than you might think.

They both have family at heart, they both like gardening, and they both clearly care about Rotorua and local government.

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But only one can be elected mayor in October.

With about five months before the election, they've both already thrown their hats in the ring, making promises and claims. Behind the scenes they have teams helping with pamphlets, billboards and more.

But from the time I have spent with them, and covering council as part of my job, I also see some differences in them too.

Steve Chadwick (left) and Reynold Macpherson are in the race for mayor.
Steve Chadwick (left) and Reynold Macpherson are in the race for mayor.

Chadwick is charismatic and well-experienced in politics, clearly a people person.

Macpherson is more academically-focused. He talks of governance and management and has vast business experience.

Macpherson missed out on the mayoralty by 2863 votes in 2016. But a whopping 25,000 people missed out on even having a say on who would represent them.

In fact, in 2016, a little less than 46 per cent of eligible Rotorua voters used their voice to decide who would be in council. Just 21,252 votes, excluding special votes, were cast.

If just half the people who didn't vote in 2016 voted for someone else, an entirely new candidate could have been elected.

Key election dates for 2019.
Key election dates for 2019.

It's easy to overlook local government politics in favour of central Government. Everyone knows who Jacinda Arden and Simon Bridges are. But it's Karen Hunt, Charles Sturt and other councillors who have more of an impact on your day-to-day life.

When you wake up in the morning and have a shower, it's using water they meter, when you flush the toilet it goes to wastewater treatment plants they run, and when you walk, cycle or drive to work, it's on roads and footpaths they are responsible for.

People use these things every day but it's easy to forget how they get there and stay there. Some people just complain they're broken without doing anything to change it. Now's the chance to do something about it.

The race for the council has already begun. I encourage everyone to take notice of what is happening and take an interest.

One thing's for certain: it won't be boring.

Read here for the first of a series examining the race for mayor and the major issues up for debate. The Rotorua Daily Post delves into the lives of Chadwick and Macpherson to find out who they are, what they do outside work – and why they want to be mayor.