Vicki Buck named deputy mayor

POSSIBLY IMPOSSIBLE: Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck resolves to have one photo taken this year where her mouth is closed.
POSSIBLY IMPOSSIBLE: Deputy Mayor Vicki Buck resolves to have one photo taken this year where her mouth is closed.

Christchurch mayor-elect Lianne Dalziel has picked a former city mayor, Vicki Buck, to be her deputy.

Buck, who was the city's first woman mayor, was in charge from 1989 until she stood down in 1998 and is still regarded as one of the most popular mayors in the city's history.

She mounted a successful political comeback at this month's local body elections and was easily the highest-polling council candidate anywhere in the city, receiving 11,221 votes in the Riccarton-Wigram ward.

"Vicki brings huge experience to the role, having served as the city's mayor for three terms from 1989 and before that she was a councillor from 1974," said Dalziel.

"Her focus on encouraging a culture of innovation and ideas, essentially fostering the new culture of making things happen, is a perfect fit with the way this new council wants to work."

Buck said the deputy's position was not a ceremonial role.

"My role will be to ensure that when our residents come to the council with suggestions and ideas, where possible, they happen.''

A first-term councillor, Raf Manji, will chair the council's finance committee.

Manji, who had a career in the finance industry including 11 years as an investment banker in London, said he was looking forward to making a contribution in an area he knows well.

"My priority will be to get the council finances onto a stable footing, understanding the financial commitments and responsibilities of the Long Term Plan as well as working on risk management strategies to ensure that there is confidence about the Council's long term finances,'' he said.

Dalziel said it is really important to signal to the community this council is coming together as a team and playing to the strengths of those in this team, by having them in roles suited to their skills and experience.

Councillors are working to establish the new standing committees and will make announcements on chairs and deputy chairs, along with portfolio responsibilities as soon as that work is complete, she said.

Dalziel had previously said she wanted the councillors to think about the qualities they wanted in a deputy mayor. She was also keen to have consensus around the successful candidate.

Other councillors, including Glenn Livingstone, Yani Johanson and first-term member Paul Lonsdale, who came second to Dalziel in the mayoralty race, had all expressed interest in the job.

Buck's appointment is expected to be confirmed when the incoming council is sworn into office on Thursday night.

The most recent deputy mayor, Ngaire Button, was voted out of office at the recent elections.

Buck, a mother of two, has been out of the local government scene since standing down as mayor in 1998 and has deliberately kept her nose out of local politics, but the gravity of the issues facing Christchurch in the post-quake era drew her back into the fray.

Much has changed in the 15 years since she last worked in the Civic Offices.

The offices have shifted, the size of the elected council has been halved, which Buck says makes for a "very different dynamic", and the city has gone through a devastating natural disaster which has left it facing unprecedented challenges while financially stretched.

"The circumstances of the city, particularly when you look at its budgets, are radically different, " Buck says.

She is excited to be back, though, and keen to get down to work.

In the years since stepping down from the mayoralty, Buck has worked in many fields but she has recently severed her ties with the school she helped found, Unlimited, and resigned from her job editing a climate change website so that she can put all her energies into her city council work.

One of her strengths, she says, is being able to think outside the square and find ways of doing things differently.

"As a council-elect I think we're very much about removing blockages and having a can-do type attitude."

When quizzed earlier this week by The Press about whether she wanted the deputy's role, Buck said it depended on the job description.

"If it is as it used to be then I have no interest in it whatsoever, " she said.

The Press