Hicks 'energised' for next challenges
Gore District Mayor Tracy Hicks will be re-elected for his fourth term this year because there have been no challengers for the top spot.
Mr Hicks said he was "energised" about the challenges for the coming term.
Those challenges included securing the district's drinking- water quality and quantity, focusing on raising the economic development of the district, and having discussions about the future of local government, he said.
"There seems to be a desire from the Government to have less councils . . . nobody wants to talk about amalgamation, but we may have to face up to that as a council."
Mr Hicks said if a decision to amalgamate southern councils was made, the new council should be based in Gore: "I might be biased, but I think Gore would be an ideal location as a local government hub."
When reflecting on previous terms, Mr Hicks said his biggest achievement had been unifying the council.
"There had been a history of splits and a bit of animosity [among councillors]," Mr Hicks said.
"I see myself as a chair of meetings, not a dictator."
However, Cr Bevin Watt said in June he was concerned about "condescending comments" from longer-term councillors, and that some were not receptive to being challenged. Cr Watt said he wanted a council atmosphere in which diverse opinions were welcomed, and free, frank and open discussion was encouraged without fear of intimidation.
"I don't believe that is happening at the moment," he said.
Cr Watt could not be contacted yesterday.
Mr Hicks said it was important that the council addressed Gore's economic development, particularly around population.
"We need to be growing our population, which is ageing," he said. "We need to keep the demographic broad."
Mr Hicks said an ageing population was an issue faced by many rural communities in New Zealand.
He could not be mayor if he did not have his wife, Robyn, by his side, he said. "Both my wife and I now know being mayor is a two-man role, I couldn't do the job without her."
Born and raised in Mataura, Mr Hicks lived in the community for 50 years, before moving to the outskirts of Gore about 11 years ago. His family owned a stationery business in Mataura and Gore, at which he formed his career in retail. When the business was sold in the 1990s, Mr Hicks became the manager of The Warehouse in Gore, where he worked for about 14 years.
Mr Hicks is not the first in his family to serve as mayor in the Gore district. His great-grandfather and grandfather were mayors in Gore and Mataura respectively. Mr Hicks was on the Mataura Borough Council from 1980-89; councillor on the Gore District Council from 1989-95, councillor with Environment Southland from 1998-2004 and Gore District mayor from 2004 to present.
The Southland Times