Over the next few weeks the Daily News will be focusing on the upcoming local body elections. To help you make your choices on September 20 we asked candidates three questions:
Why you are standing for council and what is your vision for the district by 2016?
What are three key issues that you consider need addressing by the council in the next three years?
What experience and skills do you have that will make you an effective councillor?
We have also invited mayoral aspirants to make their pitch in 600-word pieces. Today we kick off with Chris Wilkes and candidates for the New Plymouth District Council, in alphabetical order.
Reconnecting council with community is a key focus of mine. Effective and inclusive community engagement can create a solid and constructive relationship between our people and our district council, to see the achievement of relevant community-centred outcomes.
We must increase community participation in the decision- making process.
I believe we can do this by encouraging people to have their say more - ideas such as monthly public meetings where the issues are open for discussion and input/ concerns noted and taken onboard; the introduction of a form of referendum, whereby a public say can be included in the voting process, which would be a very effective method of gauging public opinion around potentially controversial proposals.
Where currently the public feel disempowered, in time and as the trust develops, our people will feel heard, empowered and happy with the representation they will be receiving.
I am not a fan of bureaucracy. We have substantial revenue drain by bureaucratic process within council. The results of this revenue drain is a significant lack of funds hitting the ground level, a reliance on external debt and constant rates rises.
If we streamline the processes and reduce the amount of revenue lost to bureaucracy we can go a long way to working within an operating budget not propped up by borrowing and rates increases. The current model of operation is far too top-heavy and must be addressed this term.
I will activate and lead the currently leaderless Mayor's Taskforce for Jobs and work towards getting more of our young people into employment. We lose far too many of our young people to other regions and overseas because of a lack of connection with local employers and industry training.
I believe we can turn around our appalling youth statistics by taking ownership of this issue and dealing with it pro-actively and positively. It has been proven that by assisting the youth into employment there is significant development of economic growth and reduction of the crime rate, youth suicide and self-harm statistics.
We cannot continue to fail our young people; not only is the loss of their potential hurting our district's economic growth, but our vibrancy, cultural and social elements suffer also.
I am strongly committed to addressing this issue.
As a born-and-bred Taranaki local in my mid-30s, with a passion for our people and our place, I will be a vibrant, lively representative who can engage people on all levels with compassion and empathy - connecting our people and our local government like never before.
I am prepared to articulate our needs and collective concern at the national level. I will push for greater revenue input from central government proportionate to our contribution to GDP, which is substantially higher than any other district of our size. I believe our contribution must be acknowledged and the extra strain on our infrastructure to provide this contribution must be compensated.
Our roads are falling apart under the pressure of hundreds of oil, gas and milk tankers, yet we receive no extra funding from Transit NZ to remedy this. Our land is placed under substantial pressure by the oil and gas industries, our affected communities are considerably put out by the push for continual development, yet we see no extra revenue from central government to cover the added costs of community consultation and monitoring.
This can be addressed by a leader who is not afraid to bring our needs to the table and negotiate a resolution. I am known as a man who stands up for what he believes in - I believe in our people, our place and our future.
NEW PLYMOUTH DISTRICT COUNCIL CITY WARD
1. I believe that there needs to be a cultural change within the NPDC that treats ratepayers' money as a scarce resource. The council must achieve better governance, greater financial accountability and improved transparency.
I want to ensure that we have a sustainable financial and physical environment.
2. Better governance by the council and, as a result, reduced influence by the staff on governance issues.
? To ensure that any rate rises are limited to no more that the rate of inflation by implementation of improved budgetary procedures, streamlining the structure of the organisation, reducing debt and establishing priorities based on needs, not wants.
? Develop plans to ensure that the district adapts to the major demographic changes facing the district (like the increase in over- 65s).
3. I am a consultant engineer with 50 years technical and managerial experience in the oil and gas industry. Thus I have skills and experience which are not currently available on council. I have lived in New Plymouth for 30 years and I am active in many community organisations. For many years, I have attended council meetings for Grey Power and I am familiar with council issues, operations and procedures.
1. I am standing because council needs intelligent, articulate individuals who can operate effectively as a governing body, honestly represent the community, set clear policy, and direct management to carry out such policy. I'm concerned about diminishing capital and returns of the Perpetual Investment Fund (Pif), mounting debt, expenditure on wants, the decision to proceed with the Len Lye Centre at a time when many are hurting financially, and questions around funding shortfalls, maintenance and operating costs. My vision is that by 2016, New Plymouth District will be community focused, vibrant yet sustainable, with emphasis on the safety and well-being of its inhabitants.
2. With regard to the eroding capital and diminishing returns of the Pif, decisions need to made regarding the fund's future and the ongoing costs of operating Timl (Taranaki Investment Management Limited).
? Reduce debt, cap rates at CPI or less, giving stability and assurance to ratepayers.
? Conduct a review of council internal overheads, stop lavish spending.
3. I have experience and skills in governance and leadership as a council member of Witt; director of board, New Plymouth YMCA; chairperson, Taranaki branch executive EMA. I also have an extensive background in employee/labour relations and human resource management, and skills and expertise in employment contract drafting and negotiating; policy drafting and review; and legislative interpretation.
1. I am standing for council because I do not believe that enough of the existing councillors represent the views of ratepayers - many decisions are shrouded in too much secrecy and the views of the ratepayers are not canvassed honestly.
Other issues are rate increases continually above the level of inflation and planned to do so for the next 10 years, and spiralling debt. The electorate is generally disengaged. My vision for the district is to have gone a long way to changing this by 2016, so the electorate once again trusts its local politicians.
? Transparency: the current mayor, as part of his election pamphlet in 2010, talked about getting rid of closed-door policies. I see no evidence of this.
? Participation: the long-term plan attracted more than 1900 submissions, the vast majority of which were ignored.
? Financial responsibility: an independent review of Timl and the Pif to ascertain just what we have and whether it has any hope of achieving its stated aims. To make the tough decisions if need be. If it was truly doing well, why shroud it in secrecy?
3. I have had significant experience in managing budgets as an employee of a large organisation, so I am used to dealing with bureaucracy and am not afraid to make tough decisions. I have a law degree, which means I have the ability to understand complex issues. I have extensive experience in the financial services industry, both here and abroad.
1. I am standing for council because I am passionate about our city and our future. My vision is to get this city's heart beating so we can have a growing, vibrant district which is safe and fair to all.
2. ? Housing for the elderly needs to be secure and certain.
? The maintenance and operational costs of the Len Lye Centre need to be covered by a user-pays system so the burden doesn't fall on the ratepayers.
? The council needs to ensure that the events it funds can be better accessed by more people, and that the economic benefits are fairer to the community.
3. I am a business woman and a mum who is skilled at multi- tasking. I am a great listener and communicator. I am also practical, hardworking and approachable.
1. I am standing for council to make a positive difference and bring balance to the table. My vision is a community and council that is engaged with each other - consultation is a two-way conversation. A community that is inclusive and affordable to live, work and play in. We can achieve this with common sense and without going backwards. A place where there are environments of opportunity for our young families, businesses, etc.
2.? Debt: we need to make sure we don't overburden the next generation.
? Pif/Timl: I do not support borrowing to keep propping up the fund. The issue of the release payments has been calculated using many assumptions and this needs to be monitored very closely. And I want to see the fund diversification returned to inside its policy.
? Rates and affordability: This does tie to the first two issues, a prudent approach to all costs and services. This also means keeping to the budget and promises made. Building things is the easy part, running them and maintaining them is ongoing.
3. I manage my own business and understand governance roles. I am married with two teenage boys and have a mortgage, so I understand what it's like to balance a budget and keep within it. I understand that the decisions I make don't just affect me but my children and everyone else. Often I like to think outside the box and look at things in a fresh way. It's also important to be a good listener. I have served two terms on council, have a proven track record, and I know I will make the difference needed.
1. I've been watching the council up close for some years now, and I have already served one term, but believe the time has come when I have to put my name forward to sit around the table where the cards are being dealt. There is too much influence by senior council managers and I aim to change that and restore the power to the people through their elected representatives. I'm not that happy using the word vision. Most times it means people coming up with ideas that they think others should pay for. It's time for a cuppa.
2. Not all issues are equal and I would rather the council came clean on just how much of a mess the Timl fund is in with its ill- fated investment in Tasmanian farms. Sorting out that mess has to be the No 1 priority. Secondly, we need to ensure the process which led to the Len Lye Centre being given the OK, despite the funding shortfall, never happens again. It may be a done deal, but the deal should never have been done. Thirdly, stop spending - it's time for rates relief, especially for those on fixed incomes.
3. I know how the game is played once the cards are dealt and I won't be sitting quietly around the table voting for big-ticket items. If elected, I will be sure to watch re- runs of Yes Minister just to remind myself of all the ploys.
1. I would like our council to maintain New Plymouth's reputation as the best little city in the world to live in by enhancing the natural assets that we already have, rather than spending millions on buildings to try to keep up with what other more populated and less gifted cities have.
2. ? Getting rid of our poor- performing Aussie investments and paying off debt. We will still then have at least $50 million to invest that we need to invest locally; this can either be in business or investment.
? Before any other large project is decided on, it must be what the majority of the public need and not what the minority of the public want.
? Our council needs to think green in both current rubbish collection and commercial waste practices.
3. I feel it is important as a councillor to understand how differently we all have to manage ourselves and our cashflows on both sides of the spectrum.
Many business people understand how to deal with their finances, but do they really understand how someone on a low income or benefit has to manage money when rate rises are above inflation?
Three years on the DPB looking after my daughter until she started school, as well as 17 years of self-employment, have given me the life skills to understand all types of people from all walks of life.
1. The council must stop its culture of spending and I can show it how to do this. The city needs a referenda system, which I can help set up. The council must then listen to the ratepayers' vote on the big issues. This system would have made a difference to council decisions on Waitara leases, Powerco shares sale, the Len Lye Centre and fluoridation. My vision is to get the council to work on the same budget principles that apply to ratepayers and private business.
2. ? Council spending.
? Rates increases.
? Council debt.
3. Over 30 years' experience as a lawyer. My input into the council contract with the new CEO will be vital for the future operation of council, and the relationship with council staff. It will also help to save the huge fees paid by the council to Timl for its poor performance and its failure to tell the ratepayers the portfolio of our assets. The Pif can be managed in- house by the council.
1. It feels natural that I would continue to look after our community's well-being after years as the district's senior detective. My skill-sets and attention to detail will help me offer strong, decisive, respectful leadership for the betterment of our entire community. We need councillors with solid experience of governance, who understand the socio-economic fabric of our district, who can lead positively and affordably - and that's me. This is a fantastic, vibrant city. My vision is a prudent approach to council business, focusing on teamwork, ensuring all parties are included for our continued wellbeing at a level we can all afford.
2..? Fiscal responsibility and financial accountability with a more prudent approach to spending, including consideration of local investment for the Pif and Timl.
? Decisions to be made by councillors in conjunction with council officers to ensure there is a team approach to council activities.
? Improve transparency so that the community are included in community projects and their voice is heard in the decision- making process.
3. Serving the community of New Plymouth for 28 years as a frontline police officer; 20 years as a leader and the last 13 as the senior detective in charge of all serious criminal investigations. I ensured our community was as safe as possible by charging many murderers and other serious criminals. I spent 13 years on the armed offenders squad, five as second in charge and one as the officer in charge, and 10 years in charge of the police negotiation team dealing with serious criminals and troubled individuals who needed help. This required many special skills which I can bring to the council table.
1.My vision is to be part of a successful team making New Plymouth District a place that no- one wants to leave; if they leave, then making it a place they talk about with pride wherever they are and where they will always want to return to. I am seeking re- election because I believe that I bring an experienced voice with a common-sense approach that can positively influence essential decision-making. Council decisions should be carefully considered in an atmosphere of respect and courtesy. I have proven that I am a robust, no- nonsense councillor who makes reasoned decisions on behalf of the district.
2.? The ward system and the number of elected representatives.
? The continuing development of partnerships with iwi/hapu.
? The strengthening of our relationship with all youth in our district.
3. I have earned a diploma from the challenging university of life and I can continue to offer my proven record of hard work, my empathy with all areas of our district and my commitment that I will continue to listen to, and act upon, ratepayers' issues and concerns.
1.My fears are grave about what the make-up of our council table may look like come November, and the very real prospect of a Whanganui regime being implemented. It's vital that New Plymouth does not go back to the days of not so long ago when it was a provincial backwater. We must stay the course by maintaining our vibrant city and building upon what we have already achieved as and when fiscally prudent, so that New Plymouth becomes New Zealand's leading provincial city.
2..? Waste minimisation - our Colson Rd landfill is on its last legs and this is the single biggest issue we face.
? How to fund the TSB Stadium expansion without it being a burden on rates. This project is crucial to New Plymouth's development, and whilst NPDC must facilitate it and undertake to maintain it, we as a community must fundraise the house down to build it.
? Timl must undergo some diversification without there being a panic sell-off of Tasmanian farms.
3. My biggest strength is the forgotten art of "listening" and the ability to interact with many demographics before acting on our community decisions. The system of council is not perfect, but I respect it, understand it, and will constructively work with all people inside the system to change, to save and manage resources, to achieve more with less. An executive member of Taranaki Young Professionals and Pukekura Toastmasters, I am passionate about personal development and success of Taranaki youth in business.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Should ratepayers fork out for increased security to keep vandals at bay in Pukekura Park?Related story: Cameras set to catch vandals