Four ex-Waikato mayors named in NY Honours

Hugh Vercoe
Hugh Vercoe

Former mayors from across the region have capped off the year with inclusion on the the 2014 New Year Honours as Officers of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM).

Former Matamata-Piako District mayor Hugh Vercoe and the former mayor of the Ruapehu District Sue Morris were both awarded the ONZM for services to local government.

Former Otorohanga mayor Dale Williams became an ONZM for service to local government and youth while former Waipa mayor Alan Livingston received his honour for service to sport and the community.

Mr Livingston vacated the Waipa mayoralty prior to the 2013 local body elections after 12 years at the helm but climbed back into the fray with a successful tilt at the Waikato Regional Council.

"I am, naturally, hugely honoured that people saw fit to nominate me and to receive the honour," said Mr Livingston.

His involvement with sport and community began early in life and he credited his parents for his community focus and his wife and children for their encouragement.

"Janet and my family, with their support and tolerance, have enabled me to be involved in the community for that length of time," he said. "I'm very much a team person but first and foremost my family made the sacrifices to enable me to do it."

He has been involved with school and club sport and was a director of Netball Waikato and the Waikato/Bay of Plenty Magic team but said the success of rowing and cycling stood out as special moments for the district.

"The winning and the staging of the 2010 world rowing champs was obviously a highlight and probably the decision for the Avantidrome to be built in Cambridge was very satisfying," he said.

Mrs Morris, the former Ruapehu mayor, stepped down last election after 12 years and said it was a privilege to be included on the honour roll.

"It's unbelievable actually," said Mrs Morris. "It's just a terrific thrill."

Mrs Morris was a sheep and beef farmer before she took on the 2001 mayoral race, became the district's first female mayor and pushed for development for rural economies and better access to health for her district.

"I was going into an arena of men who had fixed ideas about how they saw councils run, so I took in another perspective on how we could run things differently and make change."

Dale Williams was overseas with family when the Times contacted him and he said the honour belonged to the Otorohanga district and community.

He started in local politics in 1995 for the Otorohanga community board and was mayor from 2004 to 2013.

During his time as mayor, youth unemployment hit its lowest rate since November 2006 and a Wintec trade training centre was set up, achieving a 96 per cent completion rate.

"I'm extremely honoured, and more than a little embarrassed that I was chosen," he said in an email. "There's just so many incredible, hard working, selfless and all too often nameless people who I have worked alongside over many years that have earned this too."

In 2013 former Matamata-Piako mayor Mr Vercoe turned 70, stepped down from the district mayoralty after five terms, stepped up to Waikato Regional Council and capped it off with a New Year Honour.

Speaking from Morrinsville, Mr Vercoe admitted he liked to be boss. "I don't do well as a follower," he said.

He entered local government in 1992, chairing Morrinsville Community Board, to try and advance two major issues in Morrinsville - a heavy traffic bypass and an events centre.

Mr Vercoe ran solely for the district mayoralty in 1998, having never served as a councillor.

Highlights of his long tenure included the Morrinsville streetscape, Wyborn Leisure Pools in Te Aroha Domain, and water/sewage systems for Waharoa.

"The district is improving year on year," he said.

The spectre of local government amalgamation saw him "stay on the scene" at the last local body election, turning his attention from the district to the wider region. "I could see country areas losing their voice."

While the status quo of councils could remain, he believes there will be "some sort" of reorganisation but not in the next three years.

Mr Vercoe said he will probably have a crack at serving a couple of terms on the regional council "if I enjoy it".

The ONZM follows a QSM (Queen's Service Medal) in 2007.