Waikato regional councillor Clyde Graf says he is a vastly different man to the one who walked into a Brisbane bank 27 years ago brandishing an imitation pistol.
Mr Graf is one of eight new councillors voted onto the expanded Waikato Regional Council following this month's local government elections.
Five incumbents lost their seats at the election while long-serving councillor Laurel Burdett retired after four terms on council. Included in the ranks of first-term councillors are three former mayors: Bob Simcock, Alan Livingston, and Hugh Vercoe.
The incoming council will be sworn in on October 31.
Mr Graf, who was sentenced in 1986 to 10 years' jail for bank robbery in Australia, said he was keen to work hard and represent ratepayers "with all my ability".
"My reason for running for WRC, and continuing to campaign for sensible wildlife management for New Zealand, is because I have seen, and continue to see, the destructive effects of aerial 1080 poisoning campaigns," he said.
"The negative effects that are taking place are obvious, and the impact on local communities is immense."
Aerial 1080 is used for between 5 and 7 per cent of the region's pest control operations.
Mr Graf said he had made serious mistakes in his past but believed he could make a positive contribution to society. "Yes, there will be obstacles, yes there will be people that are outraged - fair enough - people have a right to be outraged. But I also say to people that have made mistakes - make up for them, better yourself, and work hard to correct your ways."
Waikato Regional Council communications manager Karen Bennett said a criminal record was no barrier to standing for council. The only qualifications needed was New Zealand citizenship and to be on the Parliamentary electoral roll.
Mr Graf is one of six Rates Control councillors, and is joined on the ticket by newcomers Stuart Husband, Kathy White and Timoti Bramley.
Mr Bramley won the newly created Nga Tai ki Uta constituency while first-time councillor Tipa Mahuta will represent the Nga Hau e Wha constituency.
Rates Control leader Jane Hennebry said she was aware of Mr Graf's conviction and had no hesitations putting him in her team. She said Mr Graf would make a valued contribution to council and the Thames-Coromandel constituency. "I'm very aware of Clyde's past and I know they were 27 years ago. If you're looking to persecute someone, how long do you do it for when they've done their time?"
The six-member Rates Control team is tipped as a key player in the discussions to find a new regional council chairman.
Mrs Hennebry earlier told the Waikato Times she was confident a Rates Control councillor could secure the top job and was in talks to get the support of two independent councillors before the October 31 council meeting.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Is it time for backyard fireworks to be banned?Related story: (See story)