For this week's Whanganui District Council candidate question, candidates were asked: "If you are elected, what is one commitment you can give to voters? After 18 months we will come back you to see how that commitment was honoured."
Responses are listed in the order received.
I commit to being the tenacious people's advocate. Council must focus on needs (like it or not) over wants (what would be nice to do). We have massive added financial challenges ahead of us re: infrastructure of roads, the Dublin Bridge replacement, our piping system, port and from government. Stop the "elevator music" and deal with added financial realities Whanganui. It always comes down to rates. Several candidates are like Bambi in the headlights; "Oooh Mamma look at the pretty lights." The CE Kym Fell has stated that: "It is important to have people … who are prepared to make tough decisions when necessary … at times be willing to make unpopular decisions for the greater good of our district. There are tough decisions ahead, especially around levels of service and affordability - and having the courage to stop projects which add little value to our community." That's my commitment.
I will give you four commitments: to focus on reducing debt and reducing rates; to stay in touch with the community and to listen to what you've got to say; to use the common sense I've gained from a lifetime of being in business; to be committed to doing the best job I can possibly do. What we all have to remember is that the issues of today will be different tomorrow. So an effective councillor needs to keep an open mind and do their research on every issue as it arises. I think that is something I do very well and most people will realise that from the commonsense articles I have written in the Whanganui Chronicle for many years.
If elected, what is one commitment you can give to voters? After 18 months we will come back you to see how that commitment was honoured.
I've included the question in my answer so you, the voter, get to see exactly what was asked. This is a very open-ended question as a single councillor has very little chance of having their election "commitments" fulfilled without the support of the majority of the other councillors. My commitment to the ratepayers of Wanganui is that I will do my utmost to reduce council wastage, not only of money but also time and resources. To apply prudent management to all areas that council has control over. I will try to prevent money being wasted on "feel good", "look at us" projects that have no benefit other than virtue signalling.
One of the main reasons I decided to run for council was to try to understand the procedures and processes every council must go through in their decision making. I believe there has been far too much wastage and misuse of ratepayer money over recent years. The latest draft plan for the Port Rejuvenation Project is one such instance. I am strongly opposed to its current form and it would never get my approval. The $12.5 million we have already borrowed for this next stage and the top-up of another $12.5m from the Government's Provincial Growth Fund is yet another instance of ratepayer and taxpayer money being misused. I am committed to being answerable for every dollar we spend.
Leadership is the commitment that I give to Whanganui voters. Qualified, experienced leadership is what I'm about. This means stepping up and working alongside the mayor and council towards making significant positive steps forward as a city and region. Within 18 months we will be well under way with the implementation of our Leading Edge Strategy. We will have the last part of the Mountains to the Sea Cycleway near completion. Infrastructure for housing development will be on-going and the Sarjeant rebuild well down the track. Whanganui will be a visitor destination known for performance art and a chance to experience real NZ. We will have agreement with central government on cover for extreme weather and proposed upgrades to the Port and State Highway 4 The Paraparas. These are but a few things that will be obvious within 18 months. My commitment to you is as a leader. Let's go Whanganui.
Very easy to go with "pensioner housing retained and improved" or "council meetings in the suburbs" (support both). But I believe voters (especially newspaper reading ones) can see through political promises. For existing councillors making this promises the obvious question is why not in the previous 18-36 months? If you're new what makes you so sure you can gain the support your promises need?
• to bring 25+ years of working with corporate and public management to deliver projects to council.
• to bring what I've learned consulting with the people of Castlecliff and delivering great change on very little public money to council.
• to do the mahi reading long papers and reports, distilling that into community consultation.
• to work consultatively and constructively.
• to do the right thing not the expedient thing.
• to deliver these commitments from day one.
I'll help raise cultural capability. I was recently in a "meet the candidate's hui" where a friend talked about changing the attitudes of council staff and councillors to better understand and support cultural aspirations of iwi, and all cultures. We're not a one size fits all society. Our relationship with iwi is important as they are important stakeholders in our whole community, our city and our region. It's important to understand this. For example when we're talking about tourism ventures on the river, or resource consents for areas iwi have ownership to or interests in, we as a council need to know how to navigate the discussion with Iwi. As a descendant of Whanganui iwi, I'm able to support us to bridge this gap. It's this that I can change well before 18 months, the bridging the gap and facilitating good communication with iwi.
When voting on matters before council, evidence and data matter. I commit to considering the authenticity and weight of evidence, and the robustness of data. Good decisions are made when that happens. This is an era when data are available on almost every issue and the validity of that information is verifiable. We need to use it; always. There are instances where the current and past councils have passed bylaws and made operative decisions on emotion and opinion contrary to the best evidence presented or available. Such decisions are prone to failure. This commitment contains my pledge to consider all evidential material in a debate. Too often I have been astonished by the level of predetermination at council with representatives stating the manner in which they will vote before considering the views of others. This is disrespectful of one's colleagues. Having sworn an oath to avoid this, it should stop.
My commitment is to the community of the entire Whanganui District, when striking rates we must ensure the three identified areas (commercial, farming and residential) are equitable to the users. The entire community is affected by rates, not just ratepayers. We may need to look at more targeted rates under S16 of the Local Government (Rating) Act 2002, such as that recently introduced to exotic forestry properties. This could also be implemented in the urban areas as well. I commit my time to doing the background reading and research, attending meetings and listening to the community with an open, impartial mind. Commitment to being the bridge between our entire community and governance of this amazing district of Whanganui. I stand for affordability, common sense and I have the experience.
I've been a committed councillor for 13 years and will continue to work hard, scrutinise spending of ratepayers dollars and fight for a safer and healthier community, including council pressing on with actions in the Housing Strategy. However, the one commitment I unashamedly give you in the next 18 months is to champion the wide benefits of sport and recreation, particularly for our youth and to do everything in my power to put a viable case to Sport NZ, Government and key funders to finally cover our velodrome, protect this asset and ensure it is capable of holding large-scale sporting and non-sporting events and concerts, to ensure its viability, with minimal rates burden. If built for purpose, well operated and promoted, this Events Centre Velodrome will reap up to 20,000 visitors a year and have a positive return from year one. This will benefit all of Whanganui.
I will always be honest and put in the effort to strive to push for all the policies I have outlined over the election period in which electors have shown faith in me by voting for me. I'm passionate about all the policies because I want to see Whanganui continue to develop and grow like it has been over the past few years, and if does continue to do so then we need to change things rapidly. I will be pushing to help the housing crisis, producing more economy which will lead to more employment, upgrading our infrastructure both civil and recreational, keeping rates to the bare inflation minimum, and helping to clean up the city with the likes of kerbside recycling. If I have to give one commitment it would be that I will only propose and support policies that will advance Whanganui into tomorrow.
I can commit to working hard and supporting evidence-based decision making. I can commit to being available and accessible to hear residents' concerns. I can commit to working together to form partnerships that will better our community. I can commit to turning up and doing the mahi.
My commitment to the district's ratepayers is that I will continue to examine the various issues placed before council and satisfy that where possible the decisions council makes are in the best interests of the ratepayers. One of the challenges facing councillors is that a majority decision is required on all matters and my endeavours will be to ensure my fellow councillors understand many of the issues that my experience in many council infrastructure matters have given me. The infrastructure spend is a major element of council's expenditure and requires thorough examination of the various solutions. My observation of a few decisions made in recent years is that the necessary informed examination has not taken place.
The housing market is moving very fast and those people who have all the documentation and finance arranged can rent and buy much faster. I see a need for a housing clinic in Whanganui that is independent. A clinic that provides individualised pathways to help people navigate the housing journey. Tick lists are supplied by banks, mortgage brokers and rental agencies already. An independent housing clinic service could be used by people who can then start to engage with those agencies. The provision of information on what is available will assist them in their decision making. People might also need assistance on how to achieve a healthy home. A group of community housing providers meets at the council already. One commitment I can give to voters is to also provide a housing clinic for community members that provides information on all housing options available, timelines and healthy home information.
I'm committed to championing Whanganui to be the best it can be. Our heritage, arts and vibrant town centre are my specialties but I can't commit to just one project or one action – we need every part of our fantastic district to be working for everyone. I'll be leading Heritage Month again next year, working with Mainstreet for more fairy lights in the CBD trees, more pop-up parks in summer, more murals and growing retail shops. I'll continue to enter the Keep NZ Beautiful Awards and expect to see Tranzit relocate their pick-up and drop-off depot to Taupo Quay. I'll also be pushing NZTA hard for the Parapara SH4 and the railway bridge walkway to get fixed.
These are three of the things I'm committing to:
• Council will ensure that the Housing Strategy action plan is followed and there is real change in the demand for more rentals. We must work collaboratively with our community to ensure an array of solutions are implemented.
• We will have completed the Climate Change Strategy after full community consultation and expert input and have implemented everything we have committed to within that time frame.
• We will not sell our pensioner housing. We may find a way to do the job better but we will not be destabilising our senior residents who fear their home will be sold.
It would also be good if we could do the following:
• Keep rates increases below 3 per cent and lobby harder for an increase in the annual rebate.
• Resolve our waste and recycling collection situation.
• Improve our footpaths, especially upper Victoria Ave.
I can sincerely make the commitment to our community, that every vote I take around the council table will have at its heart, the community's best interests. Before I vote I will listen, endeavour to be well informed and get the balance between the needs of our community today, with the needs of our community tomorrow. Specifically, in 18 months ask me how council is progressing the Housing Strategy with its 41 actions. Ask me have we prioritised this activity and are we closer to the vision that everyone in Whanganui has the right housing opportunities and a great neighbourhood to live in.
My commitment is to help create a database of the people who need housing. At present there is no up to date data base and people including the council say there is a need for housing in our region. We need action and we need it now. Let us relate to each other and I believe in this. I am a good listener, communicator with positive attitude. Whanganui is a beautiful place with different ethnic groups living in pockets with their community. What we need is accountability and transparency so that it can reflect on diversity of our community by creating a welcoming and diverse environment. This will allow people to see their differences and similarities and be better to relate to one another. Cultural representation representing different ethnic communities is very important in a local council to help solve the housing problems.
My commitment to the people of Whanganui is that all the decisions I make in council will be for the benefit of the community as a whole. At council we have to make decisions, and sometimes it can seem like a no-win situation knowing that what is good for one group of people isn't for another. But I can assure you that I will always be conscious of this and make the best decisions I can for the most people I can with the information I have on hand.
I stand for diversity. Diversity of culture. Diversity of views. Diversity of perspective.
That is my commitment to Whanganui. I believe we need diversity on our council. We need a broad set of skills, a variety of views and perspectives. All of our communities have a right to be heard and represented. I am committed to connecting with communities and finding those with the passion, vision and courage to make things happen. I will be a strong advocate for you. With diversity comes challenge and some, potentially, difficult conversations. We need to be informed by the appropriate level of analysis; consider all of the options; have robust discussion and debate over issues. What opportunities does this challenge present? What is council's role in implementing the solution? I believe that iwi and our communities have a critical role to play in charting our future. Let us take that journey together.
I promise to oppose all discriminatory and disadvantageous legislation affecting rights, security and dignity of our citizens. Equal opportunity must exist in all areas to ensure a fair and equitable standard of living for all. I also promise to view our assets, what their valuation is, and what it means to the city if we hold on to them or if we don't. If elected, I vow to open the books and carry out a full financial review of the council's expenditure to turn around the almost recessionary statistics, economically. With this looking into the possibility of low rates.
When decisions are made in council, an item is put, we ask questions, and give our opinion, I can't say discussed or debated, because it is not. The formality of the process stifles good and effective dialogue, it is not conducive for good decision making at times, in my opinion. If elected I will personally lobby each councillor on contentious issues one on one as I see fit. Had I done that over the recent expensive and high risk decision to build the new dog pound next door to the three shooting ranges on Airport Rd, I am pretty sure we would have a different outcome from the animal welfare disaster we will possibly be facing down the track. I did lobby my colleagues as a group when information I thought important came to hand, and although the decision was far from unanimous, I could have done better.