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Want to stand at the next local election? Start preparing now says Cr Wethey





4 MF-Electionnominees copy-399With local body elections looming in October, a Kaipara councillor says now is the time for residents ready and willing to devote their time and energy to the continued growth of the district, to start thinking ahead.

Nominations for prospective councillors will open in July and with recent confirmation that the Mangawhai/Kaiwaka ward will have three representatives starting from the 2022 elections, Kaipara district councillor Peter Wethey says people who have always been keen to contribute to the community now need to cast their names in the hat.

“In my opinion, now we have more representation for Mangawhai and Kaiwaka ward, which is what the community wanted, we’ll need a minimum of six good nominations to stand for those three seats at the next election, to ensure we have three quality councillors with good ideas and some experience to represent this ward,” he says. “I just want to get people thinking about it so by the time nominations are called for, those who are interested have done their due diligence. Last thing we want is for nominations to be called and no one has thought about standing.”

Potential candidates need to view the role as a community service and have a desire to help better Kaipara district during their elected term – ‘you go into it if you want to contribute, not for the money’ Wethey says, who has decided to step down from the role after serving two terms for the Mangawhai/Kaiwaka ward.

“I’ve put in six years with three as deputy mayor which takes a lot of time. I always wanted to contribute to the community and I’ve done a fair amount… it’s good to have others in for a fresh perspective, new blood.”

Although difficult to pinpoint exactly how many hours are required, a flexible time schedule is necessary to be able to fulfill all councillor requirements. These include attending scheduled council meetings ‘up to three to four every month which go most of the day’, holding a seat on several Kaipara District Council (KDC) committees, being present at blessings for council initiatives such as the recent Shared Path works, and showing up for public consultations like the Wood Street planning, as well as community evenings organised by concerned residents like last years meeting over the impact of Village roadworks on local businesses.

“Individuals also hit you up on the street, shops or golf course, however that’s the advantages of being a local elected member, you’re involved with the community so you have to be approachable for people to feel comfortable to say hi and tell you their concerns.”

In prepartion for council meetings, councillors are also required to read on average 3-400 pages of information – ‘need a day to prepare as you’re voting on captial works and long term plans involving millons of dollars of expenditure’.

Having prior experience with boards and a background in business is not essential but can make a big difference with understanding financial papers and management of capital projects as well as the structure of council, which operates similar to a corporate body. Even with 35 years experience in the corporate world and serving as chair for a large grammar school and an incorporated society, from his own experience and talking with other councillors, Wethey says it still takes the first year ‘to really come up to speed with the process’.

“What also took time was understanding the various acts like local government and resource management which play a pivotal role in the way councils operate,” he says. “However, just as equally important is having your ear open to the community and their genuine concerns.”

Reflecting back over his tour of duty in the KDC, Wethey says since the end of the commissioner’s reign activated by the Mangawhai wastewater fiasco of the mid 2000s, council ‘have made huge progress’.

“When we finally got the district back from the commisioners, everything had been crunched down, there had been no infrastructure spending, they were only interested in reducing the debt from the wastewater blowout,” he says. “In the first year we were focused on getting council staff back to working with an elected members group and we had a mayor change so there was a lot of uncertainty. But at the end of the first three years, we started to see staff working more cohesively, had a long-term plan and a boom of growth in Kaipara in particular Mangawhai, which unfortunately put a huge strain on the processes and staff involved in resource and building consenting.”

Initiated by Wethey, the council consenting process has been tweaked and streamlined, becoming more customer focused and easier to navigate, which over the last two years has proved to be ‘really beneficial, had a lot of positive feedback’.

“Since the time of the commissioners, we basically did a complete 360 and started looking at and consulting on what the community needs and what infrastructure was required.”

He says it takes a long time for projects to go through the process but the community can now start seeing the benefits, such as the recent construction of the Village roundabouts, Shared Path, and Kaiwaka’s foot bridges, as well as money granted for projects right across the district – ‘people are always going to want more than we can immediately deliver but at least they are going to see a continuation of progress’.

The next three years will not be easy Wethey warns due to central government initiatives like the controversial Three Waters bill, and changes to the RMA, health system and the future functioning of local government so people who are thinking of standing will need ‘to be prepared to do quite a bit of homework’.

However, as Kaipara is in close proximity to the country’s largest city, Wethey also believes the district is in ‘a very exciting position’.

“Kaipara has a small number of residents but a big geographical area, so we’re always struggling to have enough rates revenue to do the things we want to do,” he says. “We have to try to ensure council offers an environment which will attract more people and their businesses to the area, bringing more wealth and more employment opportunities… the whole of Kaipara will benefit.”

While Wethey says once retired from council life he plans to fill his surplus time on the golf course or out fishing, he will still be involved ‘in a few other interests around Mangawhai’, and is also happy to talk to any potential candidates about councillor requirements, commitments and whether council life will be a good fit.

“No point in getting voted in and realising this is not for me, or their job or other commitments means they can’t devote the time, which has happened in the past,” he says. “However, I personally believe there are a lot of people in the area who are qualified and have a lot of energy and expertise to serve on council, provided they have an interest in local government, want to give something back to the community and work on making the best decisions for Mangawhai/Kaiwaka ward as well as the district as a whole… at the end of day that’s what being on council is about.”


Kaipara district councillor Peter Wethey says people keen to step into councillor’s shoes at the upcoming elections need to start doing their due dililgence to prepare for the role. PHOTO/JULIA WADE


“I personally believe there are a lot of people in the area who are qualified and have a lot of energy and expertise to serve on council… want to give something back to the community…”

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