Porirua's new mayor New Zealand's youngest

BY BRITTON BROUN
Last updated 05:00 11/10/2010
Porirua's new mayor, Nick Leggett,
ROSS GIBLIN/Dominion Post
GOOD ADVICE: Porirua's new mayor, Nick Leggett, is the youngest in the country but says he has almost 30 years of previous mayoral experience to draw on.

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Porirua's new mayor is the youngest in the country but says he has almost 30 years of previous mayoral experience to draw on.

Three-term Porirua city councillor and commercial real-estate agent Nick Leggett, 31, took the mayoralty with almost 3000 votes more than the runner-up, deputy mayor Litea Ah Hoi.

Yet instead of big culture change, the passing of the mayoral chains feels more like a generational shift within a family.

Retiring mayor Jenny Brash spoke at Mr Leggett's celebration party on Saturday night and has offered to be on the end of the phone for as long as he needs.

"She has not only done the job really well for 12 years but people really respect her. I'll be needing to tap into that," he said.

"And the same goes for John Burke, who was there for 15 years before Jenny. Both previous mayors have been very supportive."

Mr Leggett first became a city councillor in 1998, aged 19, to improve community representation on council. Though 75 per cent of the city were aged under 45, there had been no-one under that age on the council.

He said he was proud to say that the group he will lead is "undoubtedly" the most representative of its community in New Zealand.

"The Porirua council have robust debate from time to time but we don't have the massive ideological or personality divide ... it's not like Whanganui or even Wellington."

Almost half of the councillors are new, representing a wide range of ages, ethnicities and socio-economic positions.

They include former gang member turned youth educator Wayne Poutoa, the country's youngest councillor, Bronwyn Kropp, 19, and mother of four 'Ana Coffey, 32.

"People with young kids are the most under represented and arguably those are the sort of households that need the most from local government," Mr Leggett said.

"Bronwyn joins a long line of Porirua people who were elected to council at a young age but we've also got Ken Douglas, who is 75, and the two Maori and four Pacific councillors as well.

"It's really good we've got that sort of variety around the table."

Mr Leggett said he was not the youngest mayor – former prime minister Norman Kirk became mayor of Kaiapoi in 1953, aged 30 – but he may be the youngest in charge of a city.

Mr Leggett's priorities were restoration of Porirua Harbour, replacing sewer pipes and rejuvenating the city centre in a public-private partnership.

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- The Dominion Post

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