Houwers Critic likely to run for council

HANNAH FLEMING
Last updated 05:00 21/06/2013

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Council critic and well-known rates campaigner Len Houwers has given the strongest indication yet that he will this year stand for council.

The New Plymouth businessman said yesterday that although he had not yet made a firm decision, he was giving it "serious consideration" as nomination time loomed.

Mr Houwers had previously stated there would be no point standing if people voted as they had done in the previous election.

So far, four other people have raised their hands as being potential candidates.

They include real estate agent Reuben Doyle and mortgage broker Murray Chong, as well as New Plymouth man John O'Sullivan.

Uruti but soon-to-be Stent Rd resident Chris Wilkes also announced his intention to stand last month.

Mr Houwers said his desire to run for council was based on the need for him to step up and be more than just a critic from the sidelines.

Whether he chose to take the plunge depended on the quality of new candidates, and whether voters wanted change.

He said at least six councillors, who were under the impression everything was fine in its current state, needed to go.

"I have no desire to be elected to be part of a team that thinks it's business as usual and be stymied by them. We need to reform performance, not maintain the current complacent attitude."

His main concerns were regarding the council's ability to lead and look after the long-term interests of the district.

"Governance is woeful. Lack of meaningful transparency and spin-doctoring is destroying trust in our public institution. Financial management is unsustainable.

"Finally, the public are treated with contempt when it comes to being listened to."

Mr Houwers said the district was now into its second decade of rate increases exceeding cost-of-living increases, yet borrowing continued to increase.

"People think this is the price of progress, but the importance of big-spend projects in making the district a more attractive place is grossly exaggerated," he said.

Where the mayoral seat is concerned, Andrew Judd remains the only individual to contest incumbent mayor Harry Duynhoven.

Rumours have recently circulated suggesting councillors Pauline Lockett and Maurice Betts planned to run as a duo, however, when the Taranaki Daily News contacted them yesterday, it was the first they had heard of it.

Mr Betts said he intended to stand for council again and would love to be re-elected, but had no interest in the mayoral duties.

"I'm trying to simplify my life," he said.

Ms Lockett also denied any interest at this stage.

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