Knives out as Waitara duo spar

17:00, Aug 13 2013

The claws are already out in this year's local body elections in Waitara, which last time was a toothless contest.

Waitara Community Board chairman Colin Johnston yesterday announced his candidacy in the North Ward and immediately went on the offensive, claiming incumbent councillor Sherril George had lost the support of her community.

For her part Ms George said Mr Johnston had been a "bloody useless" community board chairman and was just as useless when elected to the New Plymouth District Council in 2004.

In the last election, Craig McFarlane and Ms George were unopposed. But this year they will have to campaign against Mr Johnston and another candidate, Bill Simpson.

Much of the tension between Mr Johnston and Ms George revolves around a 53-section subdivision proposed for land across the road from Ms George's Waitara home.

Mr Johnston says Waitara desperately needs the sections, while Ms George is part of a group appealing the proposal at the Environment Court.

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"There is a lot of support for Craig but probably not for the other. I think it's because of what she has done over the last term, being against a business opening, protesting in front of it and being against this subdivision.

"People know what they want in Waitara and they want that subdivision," he said.

The relationship between the pair began to sour in 2011 after Ms George's boycott of the Cambodian-owned Town and Country bakery was branded racist.

The Waitara Community Board, chaired by Mr Johnston, passed a vote of no confidence in the councillor.

He claims she is a "very difficult" person to work for and is no longer an effective representative for Waitara. In the last three years Ms George has been stripped of all council responsibilities for twice breaching the councillors' code of conduct.

But the three-term veteran countered that it was Mr Johnston who had lost touch with his community and his push to get the subdivision through was simply an ego trip.

"If he had any idea about council process he would be in support of the community over this because council hasn't followed their consultation process correctly. They haven't engaged with the affected parties," she said.

Ms George said "she hoped to Christ" voters did not give Mr Johnston the opportunity to influence council policy.

Mr McFarlane, who ousted Mr Johnston from the northern ward in 2007 but now has his full support, said Ms George was not without champions.

"But the general talk on the street is she doesn't have the support she once had," he said.

Ms George said she was giving her support to new candidate Mr Simpson. Efforts to contact him yesterday were unsuccessful.

Nominations for local body elections close this Friday.

Taranaki Daily News