Restructuring is inevitable

SOUTHERN FOCUS

TIM SHADBOLT
Last updated 14:45 07/11/2013

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OPINION: Now that the councils of Southland have met, been sworn in and the dust has settled it's time to get back to work.

The most optimistic post-election quote of the month would have to go to the Chair of Environment Southland, Ali Timms who is quoted as saying; "Robust debate made for better outcomes, but when the council make a collective decision everyone was required to get stuck in and promote it."

This concept of collective responsibility will be a challenge for those newly elected to council. Most candidates run negative campaigns - "I'm opposed to the A2B Yacht Race" or "I'm opposed to the Inner City Upgrade" were common themes.

If you run a positive campaign such as "I want more playgrounds for children" or "I want more books in our libraries" the question will inevitably be asked "how much will that cost?" You will immediately be branded as a "big spender". The problem new councillors will face is that now they have been elected on to the council they will have to try and make council work and achieve results.

You can't just sit there continually attacking what others are trying to achieve and expect them to support your initiatives.

Dave Cull, the Mayor of Dunedin, and several councillors faced a classic situation when they were elected for their aggressive opposition to the new indoor stadium, but once on the council they had to become positive advocates and promoters of this facility.

Unfortunately it's a challenge that Southland may have to deal with. I believe restructuring is inevitable and we will probably have four options:

1: No change.

2: Two councils - one territorial and one regional.

3: One single unitary Southland council.

4: One southern Super City consisting of Otago and Southland.

While the Local Government Commission ponders our future, our job as a council is to maintain our roads, parks, sewerage system, water reticulation system and other vital infrastructure.

One of my objectives over the next three years is to make Invercargill the most democratic city in New Zealand. Not only have our parents and grandparents fought World Wars in support of democracy, but New Zealand as a nation has been a world leader when it comes to embracing the principles of a democratic society. We were arguably the first country to give women the right to vote. This was achieved in 1893, compared with the co-called bastions of democracy such as Britain, America and France who didn't allow women to vote until after World War I.

Despite our proud historic record, voting in local government is collapsing throughout the country. To a degree I feel personally responsible for the low voter turnout in Invercargill because I ran an extremely low key election campaign. It appears that when there is a robust, energetic mayoral race, voter participation definitely increases. It is my responsibility to ensure the sparks will fly during our next elections.

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I have also relied on submissions to the Annual Plan and Long Term Plans for gauging public opinion but this term I'll revert to conducting Mayoral Polls on controversial issues. I received a lot of criticism because these polls are not scientific. I have always admitted that, and I agree that the outcome can be skewed by the manner in which a question is phrased. Regardless of these flaws, I would still receive over 1000 responses to these Mayoral Polls and they did generate a lot of discussion and debate, as well as making local government seem a lot more exciting than it actually is.

Public interest in our local community will also be inspired by the publication of The Life magazine. It's glossy, sophisticated and trendy. Not words usually associated with Invercargill, yet when you read the stories it helps you understand the amazing lives that Southlanders enjoy and the opportunities that exist in the big, wide world.

This month we will be once again hosting the Burt Munro Challenge and I believe the huge response to this event is due to Time magazine.

I'm not sure how many stories about events in Invercargill have been published before in Time , but I would hazard a guess and say . . . none. This year we received a rave review and I'm sure that will translate into an increase in overseas visitors to our city.

The good news for my promotional role as mayor is out. The "Tim Shadbolt" brand has increased its perception from 28 per cent in 2008 to 45 per cent in 2013.

» Tim Shadbolt is the mayor of Invercargill.

- The Southland Times

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