'Good to have a bit of a competition' - Whanganui mayoral race heats up

12:29 pm on 2 August 2022

Local body elections tend to induce a zombie-like stupor among the residents of many towns and cities - but not so in Whanganui where there's a quiet excitement about actually having a race for the mayoral chains.

Whanganui mayor Hamish McDouall

Hamish McDouall. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

In 2019, incumbent mayor Hamish McDouall was unopposed - but that won't be the case in October.

McDouall saw off no less than six challengers in the race to succeed Annette Main in 2016, but three years later there was no appetite to take on the 1990 Mastermind New Zealand champion.

In October McDouall, an expert on all things David Bowie, will face at least two challengers, both from outside council: musician and education contractor, Daniel 'DC' Harding, and management consultant Andrew Tripe.

Harding, who is of Ngāi Tahu descent but Whanganui-raised, was thrilled at the prospect.

"I think it's super exciting and the reason why I think so is because the town will get to see that Whanganui is actually diverse and how diverse Whanganui is.

"And that's important to any local democracy, diversity. You know, we don't have much diversity at the council table at the moment and I'm excited to see that grow."

Daniel 'DC' Harding.

Daniel 'DC' Harding. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

The 37-year-old said his ability to build relationships made him perfect for the top job.

"I've always collected the voices of those I've worked with and turned that into a strategic direction and have been able to turn organisations around.

"And so I think Whanganui needs someone like that, but also an ally. Someone who's on their side who wants to see the aspirations of the town grow and I believe I can help with that."

Andrew Tripe comes with a wealth of management experience in the private and public sector both in New Zealand and overseas.

Back in Whanganui since 2010, he's best known for transforming the historic National Bank building on Victoria Ave into The Treasury, a boutique retail and hospitality space.

And while Harding is also standing for council, Tripe said he was only interested in the mayoral chains.

"Democracy needs a contest and we didn't have that last time and we've got it this time and I'm ready for the fight and I think people are ready for some change.

"I believe that I am the change that we need. That's what I've been told and I'm ready to serve and ready for action."

Andrew Tripe

Andrew Tripe. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Tripe promised to push back against the erosion of local democracy.

"Particularly around three waters and the changes that are going on in local government. The centralisation and control that's being imposed on us by government."

Other areas of focus for Tripe included a more transparent council, support for business and tackling the district's housing crisis.

Incumbent Mayor McDouall, who is the first to admit last election's walkover was less than ideal, was looking forward to the contest.

"I didn't feel cheated out of an election, it's a lot of hard work, but I'm really pleased there are some candidates now.

"You really need to justify your performance and it's actually really good pulling out the long list of things that have been achieved under my watch."

McDouall, who counted the $50 million Port Whanganui revamp as one of his greatest achievements, said if he was re-elected, it would be his last term as mayor.

On Victoria Avenue shoppers were mostly excited to see a contest for the mayoral chains.

"We need some new blood right through council," said one shopper.

While a man who preferred not to give his name said "at least it keeps them honest, aye?"

A woman out shopping with family was happy there would be more contenders this time around.

"It will be nice to possibly have a change."

A contractor was on the same page.

"Three people are running and they all look really good, so it's always good to have a bit of a competition going."

For anyone considering running for council or mayor, there is a candidate information session at the council chamber this evening.

Nominations close on 15 August.

  • Mayor says local government review will find 'major systemic' flaws
  • Local government conference: Focus on elected membership, co-governance and climate change
  • Hundreds turn up for behind scenes look at Whanganui Port revamp
  • Cargo volume through Whanganui set to triple with coastal shipping boost