Because they asked: a fourth bid to be mayor

01:27, Sep 09 2010
Mike Ward
MIKE WARD: "I have a long-term vision for the city that acknowledges that we have challenges over energy and climate change."

The Nelson Mail today begins a series of profile stories on the eight men and women seeking the mayoralty in Nelson and Tasman. Today, Tracy Neal talks to veteran Nelson candidate Mike Ward.

If God loves a trier, then maybe it's about time He gave Mike Ward a break.

The 68-year-old pensioner, former city councillor and one-time MP is about to have his fourth crack at the Nelson mayoralty, although he admits he doesn't much rate his chances.

"I think my chances of becoming mayor are less than getting on to council."

He is wily enough to know what shapes people's views on how they vote, but decided to put his name forward again based on the number of people asking if he would.

"I have no doubt there are enough folk out there who like the idea of me being mayor but what tends to happen is that people vote for the candidate most likely to keep out the person they don't want.


"Last time I was beaten by a very smart campaign," he says of the slick branding supporting the Hands Up gang of 2007.

Mr Ward, a former primary and secondary school teacher who has been a self-employed artist for the past 32 years, is married to Joy and has three grown children: Nicola, 43, Rebecca, 37, and Jonty, 30. He and Joy have six granddaughters aged 4 to 17.

The former Green Party list MP, who polled fourth behind Ian Barker in the 2007 Nelson City Council mayoral election, has served four terms as a city councillor. He was first elected in 1983, had his first try at the mayoralty in 1986, and tried again in 1989 and 2007.

Mr Ward's terms on the council were from 1983-89 and 1992-98, and he finished a close second to the late Peter Malone for the mayoralty in 1989.

The experienced campaigner can add "nine or 10" general election campaigns to his curriculum vitae as a member of the Values, Alliance and Green parties.

"I have a long-term vision for the city that acknowledges that we have challenges over energy and climate change.

"We can wait until we are told what to do or we can be proactive. The real advantage is in being first off the block," he says of his philosophy.

In Mr Ward's book, the need for a robust local economy is paramount, helped by encouraging residents to spend locally.

Mr Ward's spectacularly low-cost campaign will be largely self-funded.

"A few friends are putting in a few hundred dollars. I will spend less than $1000 – I don't have anything more than that.

"It would be nice if people put a bit of energy into finding out about their candidates rather than voting for the loudest."

If Mr Ward were to become mayor, his pick for deputy would be current deputy and rival mayoral campaigner Rachel Reese.

"Rachel would be a good first woman mayor – just maybe not this time around.

"She would fit the bill as my deputy, but I would have to talk to everyone."

The one question that causes him to bristle is whether the thought of the mayoral salary is an incentive for him.

"The mayoral salary has nothing to do with it. I've always had enough money – I could find things to do with the salary but, good heavens, no!"

Mr Ward says a bonus of him becoming mayor would be that ratepayers would not have to fork out an allowance for a mayoral car.

Cycling is synonymous with the adventure sportsman, but it turns out the bike – or recumbent tricycle in his case, which has become symbolic of his causes to reduce carbon-footprints – is more a necessity than a choice. Mr Ward never learned to drive, because he "just never got around to it".

He feels his main weakness lies in the public perception he's "odd".

"The mere fact I am an artist, that I don't travel like others, and that I don't work as many hours in paid employment. But I have an ability to work with a diverse number of people. I know what to do to get them on side."

Tomorrow: Tasman candidate Victoria Davis.

DECISION TIME With postal voting scheduled to start at the end of next week for the 2010 local body elections, The Nelson Mail will be carrying a series of features and news stories to help readers make their decisions. Next Thursday's paper will look in depth at how the individual candidates view some of the big issues facing the region. Watch out also for the results of our election poll, which will reveal what you, the voters, are thinking on some of those issues, plus your early picks for mayor.