Kirsty van Eyk doesn't usually vote in local body elections, mostly because she doesn't feel informed enough. Not this year. This year, there are enough issues she feels strongly enough to make sure she's informed.
Today she's enjoying the sunshine in Chartwell Park, watching her children, one-year-old Callum and seven-year-old Veronica, play. Middle child Ashleigh, 4, is at daycare.
Kirsty, a home tutor, lives in Fairfield Downs, but this is one of the many Hamilton parks she brings the kids to. It's a good council service, but she draws lines on that.
"I wasn't so keen on the moot point of making Hamilton Gardens a paid attraction and reducing library hours."
She has other lines. She doesn't want water metres: As a home owner, it will affect her. "But who knows what would happen - it's essentially a user-pay system, so tenants could be affected, too. I'm definitely pro conserving water, but I'm not sure whether water metres are the way to do that. I will inform myself more on that before I vote."
She thinks water metering might be inevitable and with so many Hamilton families struggling, it's a worry.
She's still not sure who will get her vote for mayor.
"Part of me thinks Julie Hardaker did inherit a lot of problems and deserves another term. But her move on fluoridation makes me wonder. The majority of people wanted fluoride in the water. There should have been more consultation. I think the Claudelands events centre was a great idea, even though it's part of the debt problem. It sounds like it's being utilised. I don't think it's paid for itself yet, but I think it will eventually."
She'd like to see more attractions in the city centre.
"Hood St's bars certainly don't attract me to town. Most of the shops I need are in Chartwell or The Base and parking is free. The thing is, if parking in town wasn't so expensive, I'd pay, but it's ridiculously expensive."
More parking generally would be good, too.
Since she lives in the East Ward, she's looked into her candidates. She likes New Direction candidates Karina Green, Garry Mallett and Basil Wood. "They have a nice balance of ages; it would be nice to have them on council because they understand issues affecting different generations."
She'd love to see council initiatives like cheaper swimming lessons. "I see that as a survival skill."
Kirsty thinks it's terrible that Dave Macpherson pulled out of the mayoral race at the last minute.
"That shouldn't be allowed. There will be many people who voted for him and now their vote isn't valid."
Bronwen and Brian Goggin, who live down the road from Chartwell Park, aren't best pleased with Macpherson, either: They've already voted for him. Brian looked up his website to tell him how disappointed he was, but he couldn't find one. "I'd like him to know."
Dave Mac impressed them when, Bronwen says, one bleak afternoon he pulled up his ute across the street, stood up on the back of it and addressed Herbert Rd. She sat on her deck and listened. He was the only candidate they saw out in the neighbourhood. She doesn't want to go to meetings, but she's not very comfortable with people door knocking, either.
"I thought that was very enterprising. I thought, good on you."
They probably would have voted for Ewan Wilson had they known, but it's too late now.
Bronwen doesn't like Julie Hardaker's "huge billboards" - she thinks she's acting like a celebrity.
"We want a council that looks after the basic things," says Brian, adding that sometimes councillors do flamboyant stuff.
"We don't want the velodrome and if Claudelands events centre is such a success, why not sell it off to private enterprise? If it was a major money maker, they'd be interested."
They think council should concentrate on things like infrastructure: Buses, bridges, roads.
Brian thinks Hamilton's mayor should be very structured and good at managing money. "Someone who carefully watches the basics. The flashy stuff can be done by the private practice."
Brian and Bronwen agreed on what was important: Their East Ward votes went to several candidates whose focus is on keeping the rates down. Philip Yeung was one of the candidates who got a tick from both of them - that he has council experience and works with migrant communities impressed. Independent candidate Anjum Rahman got a vote from Bronwen, too. "She's an accountant and obviously knows the community." She sounds like someone who can set things up, Bronwen says.
On the other end of Herbert Rd, Alice Lee is making the best of the weather, planting annuals.
She greets everyone who walks by, but doesn't necessarily know their names. People here are friendly. She's lived on the street for about four years - in Hamilton for 40.
She loves the centrality of Hamilton - whenever friends and relatives drive through, they come and visit.
"I'm 92 now, so I don't stray very far. But I do think the bus service is absolutely wonderful, especially for senior citizens."
There's a bus stop just a few steps away. She's already cast her vote, and she's gone for well-known, established Hamilton names. "I've gone with the familiar."
Although she's for water fluoridation, she's voted for Julie Hardaker again. "I think she's done an all right job, otherwise."
Ewan Wilson got a vote for Waikato District Health Board, though. She voted for both Hennebrys - Roger for East Ward and Jane for Waikato Regional Council. Martin Gallagher got a vote for health board, too.
"I voted for people because of their records and I've gone for people who have been on council."
She thinks the inner city could do with something else to attract people. "Their dining establishments are wonderful, but don't keep people in the city to shop."
She'd like to see reduced council spending, thinks the V8s got the city into financial trouble - only the younger lot is interested in car racing.
She'd like some attention paid to her footpath - there's grass growing through the cracks. Her neighbour's plants are encroaching on it too, and a creeper from that side has made it to hers. When her husband was alive, he struggled getting round the corner of Herbert Rd and Pulham Cres on his mobility scooter because other people's plants were in the way. She'd like to see the council inform people when their plants are out of control, like it used to. She complained about the uneven footpath once, three years ago, and council workers did respond, but she's not sure whether it was due to be done anyway.
Rebecca Mead, who owns Moss Flower Boutique in the Herbert Rd shops and is a Queenwood resident, is a bit ambivalent about voting. She doesn't really follow politics and is tired of the many billboards and the way candidates drag their families into it. She thinks most New Zealanders will vote for personality and she'll probably vote that way, too.
"You really want personable people on council."
She met New Council - New Direction West Ward candidate Steve McLennan on a floristry job and liked his personality and his group's ideas about channelling money into the right areas. Rebecca votes in the East Ward and favours New Council - New Direction candidate Karina Green. "I probably wouldn't vote for an older man. Karina is youthful, so I think she'll be able to take Hamilton into a different direction."
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