Incumbent councillor Rob Kent has sat around the Rotorua Lakes Council table for the past six years and says he's done his best to champion the interest of ratepayers. But as a councillor, he believes he can do no more. That's why the politician has put his hat in the ring to contest the mayoralty in the upcoming elections. Reporter Katee Shanks speaks to Kent about whether he would move back to Rotorua if his mayoral bid was successful, his thoughts on claims his mayoralty run in 2016 was to purposely split the vote and why he thinks he's the best person for the job.
In signalling his intention to contest the mayoralty in this year's Local Authority Elections, sitting councillor Rob Kent has confirmed he will move back to Rotorua if successful.
Questions have been raised in the past about Kent's ability to carry out his duties as a councillor while living outside the Rotorua District but he has always maintained the distance has made no difference.
However, he admits being mayor is a whole different ball-game.
"While I have successfully been able to combine my councillor role with being resident outside of the district, being mayor is a whole different ball-game and I would of course be resident again in Rotorua," Kent said. "I have already put in place what I need to enable this to happen."
He also described claims suggesting he stood for mayor in the 2016 elections to
"split the vote" as the sour grapes of a bad loser.
"We are in a democracy where voters are free to choose who they consider best suited to represent them, not in a dictatorship where competitors are discouraged from standing so that the vote is predetermined in favour of only one candidate."
Kent believes a more cost effective and efficient council needed to be the primary focus over the next three years.
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"We need to carefully manage all the big projects to ensure they do not escalate out of the reach of the pockets of our ratepayers. I believe I am the right person to lead that challenge.
"We have a huge workload coming up with major capital investment in infrastructure and development projects under way: the museum rebuild; the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre renovation; the exciting new Lakefront development; the Long Mile/Redwoods development; the Rotoiti/Rotoma new sewerage reticulation, and the new Wastewater treatment plant being the real big ones.
"That's not to mention less visible big projects such as the need to completely revamp the District Plan and implement an electronic E-Plan version to comply with new central Government requirements just announced.
"We also have to find solutions to the decline of the CBD, and to addressing climate change and its ramifications. We have more important things to do than participate in political power games in the council chamber."
Kent said he had championed the interests of Rotorua's ratepayers, often being the lone dissenting voice to excessive rate rises, unnecessary expenditure, and bad decisions during his six years as a councillor.
"As a councillor I can do no more. Elect me your mayor and you will see what a united council can achieve given the right leadership and financial restraints.
"Three years ago I forecast that council debt would climb over $200 million. It already has. I am now forecasting that we will see debt exceed $300 million if we continue the Long-term Plan without tight financial restraint being implemented immediately."