Local elections: High turnout of council candidates in Gisborne district

10:13 am on 25 August 2022

There is a real race on for the local elections in Tairāwhiti, with the highest number of candidates in 21 years. RNZ meets the four vying to be mayor of Gisborne.

Gisborne. Photo: RNZ/Tom Kitchin

Forty-two people are going for Gisborne District Council's 14 seats (13 seats for councillors and one for the mayor), three times the number of places around the table.

Voters have a big choice on their hands, with four very different people throwing their hat in the ring to be mayor.

Who is running for mayor?

First on the list was Colin Alder - a semi-retired organic farmer who had never run for office before.

But he had watched local politics closely and the more he had seen, the more angry he became.

Colin Alder. Photo: Supplied

There was one issue that had really got him concerned: the actions of the local regional development agency, Trust Tairāwhiti.

"I think these guys have gone out of control," he said.

"They're just about to put our network on the market, which supplies electricity to the whole region."

He thought they were putting too much focus on high-risk ventures like forestry.

"So they're putting all their eggs in those baskets and they're selling the cash cow, steady income, rock-solid serve the people business."

Darin Brown. Photo: Supplied

Darin Brown was next on the list. He had never run for office and works as a concreter.

He said he was not vaccinated against Covid-19, but still not against vaccinations.

"I am not an anti-vaxxer, no way am I an anti-vaxxer, I'm just a pro-choicer, that's it."

He thought the council had focussed too much on vanity projects, like the $46 million pool, and wanted to bring it back to basics.

"Our rates are going through the roof and as for little old Gisborne, as much as we have forestry movement and everything else going on here, the wages are still quite low and people can't afford to pay rates, let alone build a new home."

This was despite most of the pool being funded through the Provincial Growth Fund.

Rhonda Tibble. Photo: Supplied

Rhonda Tibble was the third candidate. With background in education and bicultural consulting, she speaks fluent te reo. It will be her first time running for council too.

"I think it's time that tangata whenua occupy this space and that we also have the opportunity to flex muscle in the bicultural nature of New Zealand and also the diverse nature of New Zealand," she said.

She was particularly focussed on housing.

"If you haven't got people homed and domiciled correctly, then the problem with that is that you're at ground level of basic needs not being met, so that's a large portion of our community here in Gisborne that have that problem."

This trio are competing against incumbent Rehette Stoltz, going for her second term.

Gisborne Mayor Rehette Stoltz.

Rehette Stoltz. Photo: RNZ / Tom Kitchin

If elected again, Stoltz said her biggest priority would be gearing up for climate change.

"Our main focus will be to get the region of Tairāwhiti ready for climate change. That will be reflected in all our planning instruments, how we talk to our community, where we allow roading and investment and also development to happen," she said.

She said she did not hold a position on the controversial electricity network sale.

"We have asked for more information in order for us to make up our mind to see is this good, or is there some other option that can be looked into."

What else is on the cards in this election?

This is the first time the region with the highest proportion of Māori in the country has Māori wards.

Thirteen people are going for five Māori seats.

And although voter turnout last time was higher than the national average - sitting at 50 percent rather than 42 - those in the running hope even more people show up to the polls.

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