The race for Rotorua mayoralty

Mayor Steve Chadwick and her main rival, Reynold Macpherson, are squaring up in a battle for the city's top job - the Rotorua mayoralty.But they aren't the only ones gunning for a position at the council table. There are also 10 councillor seats available. Zizi Sparks takes a look at the current councillors and new challengers who have thrown their hat in the ring already - and what they think the key issues are this election. Plus we reveal who else is planning to take on 2016's top mayoral pollers.

They sit around wooden tables on the green chairs in the council chambers together.

Armed with a microphone each and a council agenda they are responsible for key decision making. Though they don't always share the same views in the green-carpeted room, they are in it together.

There are 10 councillor seats available in the council chambers. Photo / File
There are 10 councillor seats available in the council chambers. Photo / File

But come election time the niceties will be put to one side as they all campaign for the limited seats around the table and the name plaques in front of them.

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Current councillors

Of the current 10 councillors, all but Rob Kent have announced they will be running again.

The next top-10 polling candidates in 2016 had not by Monday this week confirmed if they would stand or could not be contacted.

Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson who is standing for council again in 2019. Photo / Supplied
Deputy mayor Dave Donaldson who is standing for council again in 2019. Photo / Supplied

Current deputy mayor Dave Donaldson said he was standing because he had a "strong belief in the Rotorua Vision 2030 goals" and was supported by family and encouraged by friends to stand.

"I am encouraged by the trajectory we are on in terms of district development ... Plus I have the time to commit 100 per cent."

Donaldson said if elected he would maintain his "high level of participation" in meetings, partnerships and public engagements.

"That is what a community demands of its elected members in terms of leadership and democracy."

He believed the biggest issue this election was whether candidates were supportive of the community's vision and committed to carrying it forward.

Rotorua Lakes councillor Tania Tapsell got the most votes in 2016. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Lakes councillor Tania Tapsell got the most votes in 2016. Photo / Supplied

Tania Tapsell, whose 9567 votes in 2016 made her the highest-polling elected councillor, said she was standing because Rotorua "needs a councillor that understands the real needs of our families and has the courage to fight for policies that ensure our locals can still afford to live in our district".

Tapsell believed the big issue this election was housing affordability and supply, and if elected she would increase residential housing supply through land-use regulation.

"With a growing population and increasing rents, every day gets harder for working families."

She said land-use regulation would mean Rotorua had more opportunities for housing investment to make it available and affordable for all.

Rotorua Lakes councillor Peter Bentley is running for re-election. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Lakes councillor Peter Bentley is running for re-election. Photo / Supplied

Peter Bentley, whose 8177 votes made him the second-highest polling elected councillor, said he was standing in the hope there would be a "big change of councillors and leadership and that we can address the debt and care for this city in a responsible rational way".

Bentley believed debt and the lack of infrastructure maintenance were big issues and if elected he would address those things.

Mark Gould agreed council debt and lack of funding for basic services were the big issues.

Rotorua Lakes councillor Mark Gould. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Lakes councillor Mark Gould. Photo / Supplied

"There's also an issue with the museum. That should be one of the top priorities getting it open again because the council is missing out on revenue every year it's not open."

Gould, who polled sixth in 2016, said some projects needed to be put off or delayed to ensure the museum was fixed.

He said rising rates were also an issue.

Raj Kumar who was first elected in 2016 with 6687 votes said the biggest issues in the lead-up to the election were homelessness, council debt and people's faith in the council.

Rotorua Lakes councillor Raj Kumar is aiming for a second term. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Lakes councillor Raj Kumar is aiming for a second term. Photo / Supplied

"If elected I hope I can listen once again and raise the voice for many people who are left bewildered or unheard."

Trevor Maxwell, who has been a local body politician in Rotorua for more than 40 years, said he believed the biggest issue was finding an alternative to putting treated wastewater in Whakarewarewa Forest, something the council made a commitment to stop doing so by December 2019.

Councillor Trevor Maxwell has been on council for more than 40 years. Photo / Stephen Parker
Councillor Trevor Maxwell has been on council for more than 40 years. Photo / Stephen Parker

"We've been working hard to come up with a solution," he said.

"If elected I would try very hard to encourage new and re-elected councillors to embrace and appreciate Te Arawa and other cultures.

"Sometimes people are not aware of the cultures in our district and city. I'll encourage them to embrace and appreciate them."

Rotorua Lakes councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is running again. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Lakes councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is running again. Photo / Supplied

Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, who was first elected in 2011, said the issue for her was completing the council's big projects and communicating why those were important for current and future generations.

Raukawa-Tait said she wanted to take on central Government about why they must do better and more to reduce inequality.

"The gap between the haves and have-nots is increasing. We don't seem to realise that council can advocate in this space for its citizens.

"We can't sit back any longer and say that's not our job. In my view, it is."

Charles Sturt said he was running again because he could make a difference.

Rotorua Lakes councillor Charles Sturt. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Lakes councillor Charles Sturt. Photo / Supplied

"I listen and reflect the vast majority of Rotorua people who support the direction Rotorua is heading into the future.

"We must reflect growth and its demands on delivering council services in a cost-effective way and be open to considering new ways of delivering them for the people."

Sturt said he believed a key issue was achieving Vision 2030 objectives.

Vision 2030 includes seven long-term goals which set the direction for the district and includes key projects like the Lakefront revitalisation and forest entrance improvements.

If re-elected he would ensure the council stayed on track.

"In terms of the big projects we have embarked on delivering, especially infrastructure to ensure we can meet the growth challenges we are experiencing."

Councillor Karen Hunt was elected by the skin of her teeth last election. Photo / File
Councillor Karen Hunt was elected by the skin of her teeth last election. Photo / File

Karen Hunt, who secured a seat at the council table in 2016 by a 138-vote margin, said the biggest issue was housing.

"We need to make sure we support housing development ... including apartments in the CBD.

"[If elected] I will continue to work hard making sure the needs of current and future generations are considered, by improving and updating the infrastructure we currently have and building new facilities and infrastructure that meets the changing world we are living in."

Hunt said she was standing because she cared deeply about the district and environment.

"I am passionate and committed to making a positive difference in Rotorua for residents and visitors alike."

2016 candidates revisited

Mike McVicker missed out on a seat in 2016 by just 138 votes after a further count of votes saw him knocked from the council chambers by Karen Hunt.

Mike McVicker won't be standing for council again after 12 years came to an end in 2016. Photo / File
Mike McVicker won't be standing for council again after 12 years came to an end in 2016. Photo / File

McVicker said he wouldn't be standing again as being outside of the political world was a "pleasant change". He had served for four terms before losing in 2016.

Kingi Biddle placed 16th with 4910 votes in 2016 and said he also wouldn't stand again. As the chairman of Te Komiti Nui o Ngāti Whakaue and a member of Te Arawa Lakes Trust, Biddle said he had enough on his plate.

"Being on council is a big job and I'd want to focus my attention on being a councillor if elected and to be honest I can't."

Biddle said he would instead focus on getting people in the community to vote.

Kingi Biddle won't be standing for council as he has enough on his plate. Photo / File
Kingi Biddle won't be standing for council as he has enough on his plate. Photo / File

Julie Calnan, Rosemary MacKenzie and John Dyer also won't be standing again while Stuart Burns said he hadn't decided either way.

Others to get more than 4000 votes, Janet Wepa, Shelly Riach Fischer, Eraia Kiel and Leonie Pritchard could not be reached.

New faces

Despite the fact some former candidates won't be standing, new challengers have put their hands up to contest a seat as a councillor.

Rawiri Bhana, an Owhatiura South Five Incorporated trust member and on the Mokoia Island Trust Board, has signalled he will take a stand to make decisions to benefit future generations.

"Rotorua is an amazing place to grow up in and an amazing place to work, play and prosper but unfortunately that is not the case for everyone who lives here.

"We have a significant homeless issue, we have a CBD which, while not dying, is certainly not thriving."

Bhana said, if elected, he hoped to learn the ropes quickly and make the right decisions.

"I would like to think success would be being in a robust enough council where the brave conversations could take place and decisions can be made without ego, or personal agenda getting in the way."

OneChance New Zealand's Alan Tane Solomon has also put his hand up to run and said if elected, establishing a youth portfolio would be a priority.

Alan Tane Solomon has announced his intentions to run for councillor.
Alan Tane Solomon has announced his intentions to run for councillor.

"There needs to be more collaboration at council level with the community including a committed and funded youth portfolio.

"The council needs to listen to the people, stop spending money unnecessarily and we need some new blood with fresh positive and winning ideas. And that's me."

Solomon said he had advocated on the environment and people's welfare and would continue to do so.

"I firmly believe more can be achieved by winning a seat on council."

Former Rotorua Daily Post reporter Matthew Martin has also thrown his hat in the ring and said although it was difficult to pinpoint one key election issue, debt covered a range of them such as funding the museum rebuild, lakefront redevelopment and the district's wastewater and sewerage schemes.

Journalist Matthew Martin will run for councillor in 2019. Photo / Supplied
Journalist Matthew Martin will run for councillor in 2019. Photo / Supplied

"But, we also need to future-proof our district for coming generations, so finding a balance between funding debt and affordable rates rises is a challenge."

Martin, Rotorua born and bred, said he was standing because he had "experience, local knowledge, integrity and connections to make Rotorua a better place for current and future generations".

He said he had a strong working knowledge of council and governmental processes as a result of working in journalism for more than a decade.

"I want to see our district thrive focusing on our vibrant multicultural roots while allowing our tourism, agricultural, digital and forestry sectors to flourish."

Martin said, if elected, there were many things he'd want to change, such as introducing term limits for councillors.

"[That] would ensure a healthy turnover of ideas and abilities that's crucial for independent and transparent governance."

Public servant Ryan Gray, 32, has also put his hand up because he wants Rotorua to "be a future-proofed city people we're proud of".

"I am committed to making Rotorua the best it can be with community at its heart."

Ryan Gray is a fresh candidate. Photo / File
Ryan Gray is a fresh candidate. Photo / File

He said, if elected, he would simplify planning rules, particularly around housing.

He would also change rules around short-term rentals to encourage reverting to long term rentals and an even playing field for existing accommodation providers.

"This will also bring back a sense of community to some streets where long-term residents have been replaced by transient visitors."

Gray believed the biggest issue this election was progress and growth and making sure it was done right.

"We must make sure that growth works for our community by bringing Rotorua forward together, and ensuring existing ratepayers are not burdened with the costs of growth."

Kaya Sparke, 23, is standing because she believes more diversity is necessary.

Kaya Sparke, 23, is standing for council in 2019.
Kaya Sparke, 23, is standing for council in 2019.

"If we compare the demographic of our council with that of the Rotorua community, it really is not representative at all. I want to show people of all ages, genders, ethnicities, etc, that these political spaces are for us and we have a right to have our voices heard."

She said issues facing the council included homelessness and the worldwide climate crises.

Sparke said if elected she would focus on environmental issues and sustainability.

"I would like to see us making revolutionary changes that will actually mitigate climate change. Implementing a para kore (zero waste) scheme for the city would be a great place to start."

Nominations for candidates officially open in July and candidates will be formally publicised by electoral officers on August 21.

The mayoralty

Alongside Steve Chadwick and Reynold Macpherson, 2016 candidates Frances Louis, Rangimarie Kingi Bosma and John Rakei-Clark have joined the race for mayor.

When asked why she was running for the position, Kingi Bosma said she was standing to continue the legacy of the First Maori King Tawhiao Potatau Te WheroWhero she descended from.

"Māori Government for New Zealand, independence as our future - No more Wellington dictated parliament," she said in a written statement.

She said the biggest issue this local body election was "white-collared crime" in New Zealand and if elected she hoped to address that "including how political parties such as Labour have hijacked the local councils to drive New Zealand in mass debt and disasters".

Louis and Rakei-Clark have been approached for comment.