Mayoral hopefuls peel off gloves
Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman came out fighting at the mayoral candidates' forum in Blenheim last night, firmly staking a claim for re-election.
About 80 people gathered at the forum at the Marlborough Convention Centre to listen to Mr Sowman and challengers Jamie Arbuckle, Brian Dawson and Richard Feather.
The candidates had a chance to ask each other questions as part of the forum, and that drew some conflict as candidates engaged with each other and their policies, particularly between Mr Sowman, Mr Arbuckle and Mr Dawson.
Mr Sowman said the mayor's job was to be in charge of a $100 million business. He would be on the boards of the council-owned companies, MDC Holdings, the airport and port companies, as well as being on the committee governing Marlborough Forests.
"You need a significant record of business experience and leadership."
He said the council had begun a new and exciting economic development programme this term, called Smart and Connected, and he wanted to see that through.
Questioned by Mr Dawson, Mr Sowman said he had considered standing down after this term, but had been asked to stay on.
As a fourth generation Marlburian, his commitment to the region was genuine, he said. "It makes sense to stick with someone you know can do the job."
Mr Arbuckle said he would focus on empowering councillors to engage with the community and bring the grassroots back to council. The emphasis would be on maintenance, not luxuries such as theatres or pocket parks, while people were struggling financially in Marlborough.
Mr Arbuckle outlined a number of policies, including having three deputies, holding council open days, and days for free access to council-owned attractions.
He said later the three would represent the three roles of a unitary council: regional, territorial and civic. He planned to restructure the committees the council had now, and aimed to load his deputies with responsibilities so they would have to delegate work to other councillors, empowering them all. He declined to say who his deputies would be.
Mr Dawson repeated his message about Marlborough needing growth. The only way to sustainably keep rates down was to have more people, with more families, more businesses, and more jobs to gain scale and keep costs down.
During his campaigning, he had seen there was a lot of need in the Marlborough community.
While some lived in paradise, he said, not everyone did. Rather, some lived distressing, chaotic lifestyles and the council had the responsibility for the wellbeing of all in the community.
Growth would provide the funding needed to help them, through jobs and hands-up, not handouts.
"The rising tide lifts all . . . We can't wait another three years to move to a growth agenda."
Mr Feather said he offered a diff erent way of doing things that was focused on people and their needs. This included work pro grammes at the council to train unemployed people, council-funded house building to teach young people a trade, and promoting solar power and water storage for emergencies.
"My job is to look after my assets: the people of Marlborough, not just act in the same way the council always has."
- The Marlborough Express