Harry Duynhoven's campaign for a second term as New Plymouth's mayor looks to be in big trouble.
In a random telephone poll of 455 eligible voters this week, just 18 per cent of respondents favoured Mr Duynhoven, while his main challenger, businessman and current councillor Andrew Judd, secured an intimidating 40 per cent of the vote.
The former Labour MP has slipped two percentage points since the last Daily News poll in early September. In stark contrast, Mr Judd's support is up 17 per cent.
The underdogs, Hamilton-born businessman Craig Piercy and environmental activist Chris Wilkes, appear to be out of the race, on 2 per cent support each.
But while ballot papers are already in most voters' hands and almost 7000 votes have already been returned, the poll had 38 per cent of respondents still undecided on their preferred mayoral candidate.
It is these voters that Mr Duynhoven will need to convince he's worthy of a second term if he wants to avoid being the first mayor to get the boot after a single term since Edward Hill was pipped by his deputy Alf Honnor in 1956.
Mr Duynhoven yesterday said he was unfazed by the poll result and 38 per cent of voters undecided showed the election was still wide open.
"People who decide they don't like the guy in there now, they make up their mind early. People who think it through and realise the council is actually going along quite well, they make up their mind later in the piece, and I have always finished well," he said.
The mayor said the poll results did not reflect what he was hearing around town and at public meetings where he was getting a positive response to his re-election campaign.
Mr Judd was cautious about the results. Like the mayor he says the only poll that counts is the one on October 12, when voting closes.
"This is clearly an indication there is a need for change and I am happy to lead that change that I am signalling in my campaign," he said.
Mr Duynhoven may appear to be a victim of a perceived want for change, if the comments from some poll respondents are anything to go by.
"I think Harry's a nice guy, but he doesn't seem to have the demeanour to overcome other controlling influences in council," said a Waiwhakaiho man who was switching allegiances to Mr Judd.
On the other hand an Oakura woman was standing behind the incumbent mayor.
"It's fair enough to give him another go," she said.
Mr Judd's supporters were hoping he would deliver on his promises of a fresh approach.
"I hope a change will be put in place, as he says. I don't like promises that haven't been met," said a Waitara woman.
Political commentator Jon Johansson, a regular panelist on the TV One current affairs programme Q & A, said while the number of undecided voters and the margin of error offered some hope to Mr Duynhoven, the poll result was "pretty unequivocal".
"It is quite an emphatic and valid replication on what the current perceptions are on that mayoral race," he said.
While Mr Duynhoven may have become a target for frustrated ratepayers, the council itself did reasonably well when voters were asked to rate its performance between excellent, good, average, poor, very poor and don't know.
Just three per cent felt council had done an excellent job, but 22 per cent said it had done a "good" job and 33 per cent felt its performance had been "average" over the last three years.
"I think the council are doing an excellent job. Keep building that Coastal Walkway, it's brilliant," said one New Plymouth woman.
Some respondents were pragmatic, recognising being on council couldn't be an easy job.
"You can't please everyone all the time, can you? But I think they're doing an OK job," said a Fitzroy man.
Not everyone was happy however, and 20 per cent of respondents said council performance was "poor", while 9 per cent said it had been "very poor". About 15 per cent didn't know how to rate it.
Poor performance was often attributed to spending and oversight of council staff.
"The way they have managed the investment fund has been appalling - no-one invests all in one place," said an Onaero woman, who added councillors were not tough enough on the chief executive. Many were also frustrated at a perception that council did what it wanted.
"They've been poor, because they don't listen to anyone," said a New Plymouth woman.
The council's commitment to the arts had detractors and supporters, but one respondent said much of the backlash to the Len Lye Centre was the council's own fault.
"They've done a good job generally, but made a real hash of the PR regarding the Len Lye Centre and the Govett-Brewster. They should hire a new PR company," said the Fitzroy man.
Time for a change was a recurring theme. "I'm looking forward to new people being on board; they all need a big shake-up," said a Brixton man.
*Tara Shaskey and Jenna Houghton are Witt journalism students
Additional reporting: Jessica Howatson, Sharyn Smart, Jasmine O'Sullivan, Olivia Hofmans, Olivia Watt, Deena Coster, Susan Strongman and Amelia Ritchie.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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