Women now hold majority on WDC

Published 10th October, 2016

A shaking Sheryl Mai, champagne glass in hand, says she is “overwhelmed, rapt and thrilled” with the election outcome.

The incumbent mayor has romped home in Whangarei, winning nearly three times as many votes (14,355) as ambitious businessman rival David Blackley, who received 5,095 votes.

Polling in the 2016 local body elections closed midday Saturday. A preliminary result released this morning reflected all votes counted, though this would not be officially confirmed until Thursday.

“I’m over the moon, and the stars, and Mars and Pluto, all those planets,” Ms Mai, now entering her second mayoral term, said.

“I really hoped the community would recognise that my leadership style was right for the time. I think this [result] shows we are on the right track.

“I worked damn hard in last three years connecting with the community and they’ve shown their appreciation for that.”

Other mayoral candidates were Stuart Bell (3,020), Kay Brittenden (912), Matt Keene (926) and Ash Holwell (923).

Whangarei’s new district council would comprise eight women and six men, tipping last term’s equal gender split. Whangarei was bucking the trend, as out of of the 3,183 candidates running for council or community board positions across New Zealand, only 885 were women.

“I’m rapt with the fact there are 8 women and 6 men and a couple of new faces,” Ms Mai said.

Those new faces are Go-Whangarei’
Jayne Golightly in Denby, Anna Murphy in the Hikurangi-Coastal ward and Vince Cocurullo, also Go-Whangarei, in Okara.

Incumbents Shelley Deeming, Phil Halse, Tricia Cutforth, Greg Martin, Sharon Morgan, Stuart Bell, Sue Glen, Cherry Hermon, Crichton Christie and Greg Innes are back for a second or subsequent term.

Whangarei’s 2016 mayoral candidates Sheryl Mai, Matt Keene, Kay Brittenden, St
Ms Mai said the champagne bottle popped not long after she got off the phone with WDC chief executive Rob Forlong yesterday, tasked with informing the winning mayoral candidate.

“I must admit, I was in trepidation for the result,” she said. “I’ve been cleaning my house because I’m expecting lots of people this evening. I was still in my dirty old clothes when Rob called.”

The result would come as a blow to farmer, dad-of-seven and businessman Mr Blackley, who lead the 13-member Go-Whangarei ticket in the hopes of gaining a majority in chambers.

Mr Blackley, as well as missing out on the mayoralty, was beaten by incumbent Greg Innes by more than 1000 votes in Whangarei Heads ward.

Matt Keene and Ash Holwell, who ran on the TogetherTahi ticket, have missed out on both the mayoralty and ward seats. The pair ran a colourful and youth-centric campaign on a next-to-nothing budget which dominated social media.

The elected council is made up of the mayor and 13 councillors who are tasked with making decisions on behalf of, and in consultation with, the Whangarei community.

The councillors and mayor are charged with the governance of WDC, so set the strategic direction and make major decisions, but are not responsible for the day-to-day operations.

They in fact only have one direct employee, chief executive Mr Forlong, who is in turn responsible for the staff who implement decisions, make recommendations and keep councillors informed.

Whangarei’s mayor was paid $134,830 per annum. Default councillor salaries were $46,800. The deputy mayor and committee chairs - chosen after the election - were paid slightly more than the councillor rate.

Councillors’ key role is to make decisions that will promote community well-being, now and for the future. This generally involves being in touch with their communities, research, setting policy, making regulatory decisions, and reviewing council’s overall performance.