New Invercargill Mayor points to different leadership style after Sir Tim's departure

4:17 pm on 10 October 2022

Invercargill ratepayers are coming to grips with a city without long-serving mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt at the helm.

New Invercargill mayor Nobby Clark.

New mayor Nobby Clark says he wants to get things done yesterday. Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

He was ousted by first-term councillor and deputy mayor Nobby Clark in a decisive victory that was announced less than two hours after polls closed.

It was a win that nearly didn't happen. Last year, Nobby Clark said he would quit local politics.

Now Invercargill's new mayor wants to hit the ground running with a focus on opposing Three Waters, getting a museum built and reviewing project spending.

"Most of my support's come from people just liking the fact that I am pretty transparent. I say what I need to say and if I upset somebody then so be it.

"But I'm very focused on getting things done. I'm not a visionary 10-year plan type of person. That's not me. I'm a person who likes to get everything done yesterday."

It has been a challenging few years for the council with governance issues and in-fighting.

But the most recent reviews have found good progress has been made, and Clark is eager not to lose any momentum or for the council to become a political sideshow again.

He wants to meet regularly with councillors, and plans to speak with each one over the next few days to find out what roles they want in the chamber.

"I also want them to tell me what sort of structure we need to have to make governance a good thing in the city. So I'll listen to what other people say.

"I tend to run from the front. That's my style, but I'm going to be quite prescriptive and allowing the people that are currently there, especially the existing councillors, to have a voice in what's the pathway forward."

He believes the future of the southern city is bright.

"We've got a hydrogen plant coming, we've got two salmon farms, we've got Space Operations (NZ), we've got databanks, data centres, oatmeal plant - the list goes on.

"I mean of all the areas in New Zealand, we're probably the most go ahead of all of them."

Sir Tim Shadbolt's service to the city is expected to be marked with a function.

"It's very rare in New Zealand, in fact I can't recall another occasion - where somebody's actually knighted for the service they've given to a particular area of society while they are still in those roles.

"They normally get it when they retire. So for Tim to be knighted for his service speaks volumes for what he has put in to this city."

Incumbent Sir Tim Shadbolt has been coming to terms with a different future than the one he hoped for.

He has been the mayor continuously since 1998, also serving a term in 1993.

"Never really expected to win the mayoralty," he said. "But I certainly was hopeful to win a seat on the council. But it was not to be."

He wished the new council luck. "The challenges we face as a country can be helped - I think - by having robust councils set up to deal with civil defence and all sorts of other challenges that previously councils haven't had to face."

On the streets of Invercargill, Douglas Alderson said Sir Tim has made a big difference to the city.

"When Tim first came in, Invercargill was shutting down and the thoughts were that Invercargill was going to slowly die.

"And Tim has turned that around along with the other support of the local communities and SIT (Southern Institute of Technology) and a few other groups.

"Tim's been a real rocket for Invercargill and has helped us to where we are today."

He's hopeful the new council will be more unified.

"It's been a divisive time for the council over the last couple of years. I'm not quite sure whether it's going to settle down just yet.

"Hopefully it will, but I'll just wait and see on that one."

Maree hoped Clark would make a difference.

"Stop in-fighting in the council would be really, really good so they all come together and agree on things would be great, and we'd like our museum back."

Other locals are keen to see some action.

"I hope he actually follows through with the things he's been talking about. I've seen mayors come in before and they haven't been able to do what they haven't been able to do what they've been talking about.

"We'll just see what happens."

The inaugural council meeting will be held later this month.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs