There is a newcomer in the race to become mayor of Western Bay of Plenty. But who is Stephen Fawcett and why does he want to take on seasoned campaigners mayor Garry Webber and councillor Margaret Murray-Benge in this year's local body elections? Reporter Kiri Gillespie catches up with Fawcett to find out what he has to offer.
Stephen Fawcett doesn't have any background in local body politics - but maybe that's part of his magic.
The 46-year-old newcomer is running for the mayoralty of Western Bay of Plenty because he believes the district needs a change of representation - one that more accurately reflects the community. Fawcett is also running for a seat as a Western Bay councillor representing Te Puke and Maketū plus a seat on the Te Puke Community Board.
As the father of three sips coffee as a Te Puke cafe, he sits pensive and thoughtful while referring to the current Western Bay council's lack of diversity.
"It's 50-plus shades of grey," he said, referring to the collective ages of Western Bay's elected members.
"There seems to be a real disconnect (from the community). There's a lack of representation of multiple ethnicities, gender, ages. The youngest person is 57; there's no Māori representation ... the attention towards youth is ... tokenism."
Fawcett was born in Papua New Guinea and admits to having a different perspective on issues. He and wife Tracey live in Te Puke and are deeply passionate about the town. He has two adult children and one still at school. The IT specialist is also a big fan of film, establishing Te Puke Film and making through to the 48Hours National film festival champs twice.
As a political newbie, Fawcett is up against two seasoned pros - Current Western Bay mayor Garry Webber and long-time councillor Margaret Murray-Benge.
"It's a democratic vote. If I don't get in, at least I've been a voice for my community."
Community is a word that comes up frequently as Fawcett opens up. He spent 11 years in Pāpāmoa before moving to Te Puke in 2015. He feels Western Bay residents haven't been treated fairly by their elected members. He hopes to change that.
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"I would want to be referred to as a 'relationship mayor'; offering proper engagement from the council to the community."
Aspirations are one thing, but with zero political experience, can Fawcett handle the high-level stresses and pressures of being mayor?
"Yeah, you've got to do what you think's right and follow your passion," he said.
"I guess, for me, I'd have people around me who are strategic and outsourcing that mentoring and support for myself."
Fawcett is big on support. It's something he likes to offer himself through his Vector Charitable Trust and believes the council needs to deliver more on.
"There needs to be a focus on how we treat each other with respect. We can have different views and attack those views, but when it comes to people talking behind people's backs - that vitriol stuff - that needs to be addressed.
"People need to hear what others are feeling. That's what community is about, getting around people unconditionally and supporting them and walking alongside, that's what makes a community. If the council could be that model in their own ranks and towards their community, that's what we need.
"Two of my top strengths are empathy and connection."
When asked what the other three were, Fawcett admitted he couldn't remember but offered to email them through later.
Fawcett's Vector trust was aimed at creating a safe space where young people could speak freely about their feelings and be supported regardless. It was based, for a while, in Te Puke's former RSA building. These days the trust is run from the Fawcett home.
"Our youth are our future," he said.
"Tracey and I don't really get much downtime. Our downtime is really seeing people supported and people coming into their belief, that they matter."
Regarding political matters such as Western Bay's high rates or public transport woes, Fawcett said the council needed to be more forward-thinking and consider IT (his speciality) and technology more.
Fawcett did not agree with promises to freeze rates.
"I don't' think an Ice Age is going to cure it," he said before bursting into laughter.
After catching his breath, he said such a move would "bring death to a lot of things".
On public transport, he said rail needed to be explored more.
"It's about having different options and thinking ahead."
Ultimately though, Fawcett is a "hands and feet" man keen to represent his community the best way he knows how.
"If you can be nicer towards each other in real life and do a bit for our community, it's a win-win."