Local government 'not a one-man band' job - ex-mayor Malcolm Campbell

3:19 pm on 3 January 2023
Former Kawerau Mayor and now regional councillor Malcolm Campbell.

Former Kawerau mayor and now regional councillor Malcolm Campbell. Photo: File photo / LDR

Working well with others and having the backing of the community are what Malcolm Campbell considers the essence of good local government.

The Bay of Plenty regional councillor and former mayor, who served 27 years on the Kawerau District Council, is best known for his forthright manner, strong work ethic and never being afraid to give an honest opinion.

On being made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to local government and the community, he said he felt grateful to all those who had supported him.

"It's quite humbling to be honest," he said.

As mayor, Campbell saw Kawerau through times of industrial downturn, significant job losses and a declining population and has steered efforts to improve economic performance, attract new industry, increase services and enhance perceptions of Kawerau's lifestyle attractions.

Faylene Tunui, who has succeeded him as mayor of Kawerau, said at her swearing in ceremony in October she had never known anyone like Campbell, who was up at first bird call every morning, thinking of ways to make this town better

He led initiatives such as the Industrial Symbiosis Kawerau project and fostered collaboration between the council, industry, landowners and iwi. He chaired the Kawerau District Plan Committee and Eastern Bay Mayoral Flood Relief from 2004 to 2006, was deputy chairman of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs and a member of various local government committees covering development, transport and civil defence.

He has mentored youth through the Tuia programme and supported ongoing development of Mountain View Rest Home and Hospital.

"A lot of it is up to teamwork. That makes these sorts of things happen. It's not that I'm a one-man band.

"To go for 21 years as a mayor, 27 years on council, through two chief executives, three deputy mayors, two personal assistants and all the men and women who have been part of my team over those years and never, ever stood against me - that's a lesson in itself. I've got to put a lot of it down to that."

Since being voted onto the Bay of Plenty Regional Council as one of two Eastern Bay representatives, he has been busy laying the groundwork for fulfilling his mission to see various governing bodies working more closely together.

Campbell has supported community organisations such as Grey Power, with donations through his butcher's shop, Campbell's Meats.

Among the community organisations which he has held positions on have been Kawerau South School and Kawerau Intermediate School boards, Kawerau Pony Club, Kawerau Swimming Club and the New Zealand Jet Boat Association Northern District. He has been Patron of Tarawera Trail Riders Association and the Disability Resource Centre.

Malcolm Campbell

Malcolm Campbell when he was mayor of Kawerau. Photo: RNZ / Natalie Mankelow

He said he was grateful to the community of Kawerau.

"They've always backed me. Even now, they're asking me why I'm not as visible as much. For obvious reasons I've been spending a lot of time in Tauranga the last two months.

"People have said to me, 'I suppose you're getting over there and stirring everyone up'. That's not true, I'm not. I've been quite quiet actually.

"It's a bit of a learning curve. Because you think you get into these positions and you know everything. In fact, you don't actually know everything at all. I've learnt a whole lot of stuff over the past two months. But the honeymoon is over and I'm ready to go.

"Getting local government, territorials and regionals working in a cohesive way is a bit of a mission, but we're getting there slowly. We're working in a very positive manner with our territorial authorities right across the Bay of Plenty. I'm pretty grateful that my new colleagues… we're all working very closely together."

Campbell said he would not have been able to do what he had without the support of his family and friends.

"And of course, the other big family I'm member of, the local government family. Without their support and without everybody behind it... life can be a bit of a b**** when you're a mayor."

He said he had been "pretty lucky" over the time as mayor, with the support he had received from the various MPs in and around Kawerau.

We've always had a very close relationship. I've always had our MPs come and have lunch with me. Right the way through my mayoralty, with Steve Chadwick and Todd McLay and Anne Tolley and Kiritapu Allan, they've all been very, very supportive of us in Kawerau. So, it's not just one party, it's been right across the board.

"So, thank you to everyone who has supported me and may it continue for as long as I am in local government."

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

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