Wairoa Mayor Craig Little pleased to win ‘horrible’ campaign

4:25 pm on 9 October 2022
Wairoa Mayor Craig Little.

Craig Little has secured a fourth term as mayor of Wairoa. He told Local Democracy Reporting he never expects to win until the phone rings on the day. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

Craig Little has secured a fourth term as mayor of Wairoa with a resounding victory, clocking up twice as many votes as the second place candidate.

Progress results show Little stormed home on Saturday with 1279 votes, followed by Benita Cairns on 587 votes and Simon Mutonhori on 356 votes.

Mayor Little originally planned on calling it quits after three terms, but reconsidered his stance based on community feedback and imminent local government reforms.

On Saturday, he told Local Democracy Reporting it had been a "pretty horrible campaign" with members of the public and some candidates spreading misinformation about the council.

But he was pleased to get back in, and "carry on the good stuff".

"It was quite nasty, but obviously Wairoa doesn't do nasty. so that's good."

Little said there had been a lot of accusations about the council giving Rocket Lab special favours, along with criticism over a lack of transparency and community consultation.

He said he had never been confident about re-election, preferring to wait for the call on the day.

This term would definitely be his last, he said.

Little's time as mayor hasn't been without controversy.

In 2020, the NZ Herald reported that Wairoa District Council spent $55,000 on an investigation and payment to an employee over a 2017 sexual harassment allegation made against the mayor.

Little denied the allegations made against him by a female employee, and was prepared to defend them before they were withdrawn.

He was challenged for the mayoralty this election by four others: Benita Cairns, Simon Mutonhori, Murray Olsen and Jennifer Takuta-Moses.

The council table will be home to new faces this term, with Roz Thomas (800 votes) gaining a seat alongside incumbent councillors Denise Eaglesome-Karekare (966 votes) and Jeremy Harker (951 votes).

Deputy mayor Hine Flood missed out on a seat, 284 votes behind third place Thomas.

In the Māori ward, Chaans Tumataroa-Clarke (468 votes) and Melissa Kaimoana (417 votes) gained re-election, while Danika Goldsack (305 votes) missed out to a returning Benita Cairns (532 votes).

Wairoa District Council is made up of a mayor who is elected at large and six councillors. The council seats are split into three Māori ward seats and three general ward seats.

Official results won't be released until special votes have been counted.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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