Friday, December 8, 2023

Four leaders seek continuity

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In the north the Far North District Council leads the way in terms of democratic participation – 11 mayoral candidates and 42 candidates running for nine places as councillors.
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Far North mayor John Carter, the former National Party MP, has already served two terms as mayor and is seeking a third.

He is opposed by his deputy mayor Tania McInnes and several independents, including several Maori.

Carter said one of his main priorities continue to be infrastructure, meeting the differing needs and expectations of more than 40 communities in the district.

“Increasing government regulations and environmental standards require fresh responses and new technologies,” he said.

The Provincial Growth Fund has kick-started a diverse range of projects and the benefits will flow through the whole district.

In Kaipara District sitting mayor and farmer Jason Smith is being challenged by Maori activist and film-maker Moemoea Mohoahuwhenua.

Smith was elected mayor in February 2018 after Greg Gent resigned and wants more than just 18 months in the job. 

Fourteen candidates are contesting two seats in each of three wards and the remaining Kaiwaka-Mangawhai ward has two councillors elected unopposed.

That is noteworthy considering all the controversy over an extremely expensive sewage scheme in the sub-district going back about 15 years.

Local Government New Zealand principal policy advisor Mike Reid said there are local matters of concern in district and regional council elections throughout the country but none with the national profile that Mangawhai’s rates revolt generated.

One dispute in the north concerns three councils, Northland Regional Council and Far North and Whangarei District Councils.

The regional council recently voted by a narrow margin not to renew a ban of genetically modified organisms.

GE Free Northland then successfully lobbied for the district councils to lodge Environment Court appeals.

Council chairman and farmer Bill Shepherd is seeking re-election in the Coastal North constituency where four candidates are contesting two seats.

Another contender is long-time politician Dover Samuels.

In Whangarei District incumbent mayor Sheryl Mai has two contenders – Tony Savage and Alex Wright. Both have campaigned on better council services and roads for rural areas.

Auckland Council is a unitary council that combines civic and regional matters and consists of a mayor and 20 elected councillors in 13 wards.

In two wards that have bigger proportions of rural holdings and voters, Franklin and Rodney, the sitting councillors were elected unopposed.

They are farmer and deputy mayor Bill Cashmore in Franklin and businessman Greg Sayers in Rodney.

“That may indicate that they are doing a good job on behalf of their rural constituents,” Auckland province Federated Farmers president Alan Cole said.

The recent central government protection of high-class soils for agriculture and horticulture was welcomed by rural ratepayers, especially around Pukekohe where he lives.

The rural-urban boundary under the unitary plan has done the job for the past three or four years, stopping fragmentation of farmland and reducing the reverse sensitivity complaints.

Cole said the latest freshwater proposals are of concern, especially around the costs of compliance and the need for qualified environmental advisers and auditors.

Northland Federated Farmers president John Blackwell thinks Shepherd is being unfairly maligned over the GMO exclusion clause.

“He is a past-president and life member but Bill doesn’t attend our meetings and is certainly not directed by the federation.

“We have no pro-GMO or anti-GMO position, just that the door can be kept open for the future and that the issue should be driven by central government.”

The Environment Court is hearing submissions on the issue but Blackwell fears all the environmental aspects could be rendered invalid by central government directives.

“Councillors become demoralised when they put in years of work to make regional plans and then have them trumped,” he said.

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