Local Government Magazine
Governance

Five fresh faces of 
local government: Meet the mayors

5 fresh faces of 
local government - Meet the mayors - LG Dec 2016

Welcome to our pick of five new mayors who variously represent the fresh faces of local government. They bring a wide variety of different backgrounds and perspectives to the sector. And while several have little or no track record in local government, they come laden with solid credentials in media, law, business or local knowledge. We asked them about their plans, past experience, (where appropriate) how they are getting to grips with council processes and protocols, their pick of the sector’s big issues, and plenty more besides.

New Plymouth District Council new mayor Neil Holdom, for example, has sky-rocketed into his first ever governance role in local government bringing a background in, among other things, media (he’s the former editor of the North Taranaki Midweek) and more recently the corporate world (he’s been with Powerco for the past 13 years). His answers to our questions are refreshingly free of local government-speak. (Long may that last.)

Similarly, lawyer Tim Cadogan, the new mayor in Central Otago, may have had no experience as a councillor prior to his recent appointment as mayor, but he’s shelving most of his previous work as a lawyer and applying a sharp legal mind to his new role. (He’s also had 12 years in radio, so probably won’t be shy about speaking out.)

Meanwhile, at just 35 years of age, Selwyn District’s new mayor Sam Broughton is one of local government’s youngest ever mayors. Sam, who took over from Kelvin Coe who had been in the role since 2007, is on record saying he’d like 
to be Selwyn’s mayor for the next nine or 12 years. (Watch this space.)

Over in the Manawatu, mayor Helen Worboys, who ran against incumbent Margaret Kouvelis, is local to the core, has lived in Feilding since she was 10 years old and has been farming at Mount Biggs for decades.

Finally, at Queenstown Lakes District Council, new mayor Jim Boult brings a heap of business nous from his former role as CEO of Christchurch Airport, the largest council-owned asset in the South Island.


MAYOR NEIL HOLDOM - NEW PLYMOUTH DISTRICT COUNCIL
MAYOR NEIL HOLDOM – NEW PLYMOUTH DISTRICT COUNCIL

MAYOR NEIL HOLDOM, NEW PLYMOUTH DISTRICT COUNCIL

What do you hope to achieve in your first hundred days?

  • Prevent Donald Trump from destroying the world.
  • Achieve world peace.
  • Be managing my calendar. I gave three months’ notice to my colleagues at Powerco and this has proved somewhat challenging.

What was the first committee, of any kind, you ever sat on and what did you learn from that experience?

The Rotoz Dirt Jump Park committee is part of the New Plymouth Mountain Bike Club and is comprised of a project manager, a builder, two landscapers and me (the paper pusher). It was my first committee and I am still on it. I learned to focus on what you are best at and to let others do the same so I don’t share my opinions on things I know nothing about.

What are you doing to learn as much as possible about local body processes and protocols, as fast as possible?

Reading (thanks for the material, LGNZ), working with [Simpson Grierson partner] Jonathan Salter, working with our executive management team, listening, asking a lot of questions, more listening. Did I mention listening? Oh, and taking notes and sometimes reading them.

What are the three biggest issues for the local government sector as a whole (not just your own council) over the next five years?

  • An aging population on largely fixed incomes.
  • Quality and consistency of communications.
  • 
Better Local Services Bill – this bill in its current form has the potential to wrest control of community-owned and -managed infrastructure from the communities it serves.

How would you describe the current working relationship between local and central government?

I’m new to the sector having been in this role for just a month but from the outside looking in it is very much a parent / child relationship with central government firmly in control and local government the junior family member. Like any family, the relationship is at times tense but there are some strong bonds and mutual goals, and we all just want to get along. (Can’t wait until we are old enough to borrow the car.)

How would you like it to be in the future?

Ideally, a more collaborative relationship would be beneficial to our mutual constituents but that would require local government to undertake a lot of work identifying issues where we are in agreement and then talking to government with a single voice. We all know what it’s like trying to herd cats and I can see why central government finds us a challenge to negotiate with.

What steps would you personally take to help progress the relationship to that point?

My focus, as a person coming from completely outside council, is initially working on prioritisation of goals, improved communication and transparency. When I get back from a summer holiday I expect to undertake some relationship mapping to understand where I need to build connections which will add value to my community.

I’m not going to be focusing too much on the national level at this stage as I have a lot of work to do and my three children aged five, eight and 10 have a rightful expectation that they are my number one job and my lovely wife Melissa would like me to be home to cook dinner a few nights a week as a reasonably useful husband.

Could other places in New Zealand benefit from adopting the Auckland super-city model?

Possibly. I think there is an optimal population size for a council and it is likely closer to 100,000 than 1.3 million.

If so, which ones and how?

I’m not falling into that trap. As I said above, I think there are probably some opportunities for mergers to deliver value for ratepayers and I understand the Wairarapa councils are looking at options but have road funding issues to work through. I come from the second largest electricity and largest gas utility in the country and have seen the benefits of scale in a commercial organisation but local government has the added complexity of being a creature of statute and having social responsibilities which blur the traditional commercial decision-making process so I am not sure the super-city model is necessarily proven as more effective or efficient but, equally, little councils with small populations need to take a hard look at their neighbours and ask the honest question about the benefits of consolidation.

What are your views on shared services?

No brainer. Council should be looking to leverage buying power, seeking efficiencies and demonstrating value to central government and ratepayers or expect more restrictive requirements to be imposed by the grey men and women of Wellington.

Any other comments?

We live in an age where people feel less connected to their communities than ever before, despite all the tech. This trend manifests in ways we are all too well aware of and local government is in a pivotal role to reverse the trend by driving initiatives which bring people together, delivering on our egalitarian aspirations.

In driving towards a more inclusive and connected society we will be swimming against the economic current but I get a very strong sense that the economic and political theorists are starting to gain an understanding that inequality and isolation create an avoidable drag on our economic performance.

The world is changing and, as leaders in local government, we are strategically located at the coalface where we can grind away making small but meaningful changes that incrementally enhance the prospects of current and future generations of 
New Zealanders.


MAYOR TIM CADOGAN - CENTRAL OTAGO DISTRICT COUNCIL
MAYOR TIM CADOGAN – CENTRAL OTAGO DISTRICT COUNCIL

MAYOR TIM CADOGAN, CENTRAL OTAGO DISTRICT COUNCIL

What do you hope to achieve in your first hundred days?

My campaign focused strongly on a disconnect between council and the public; so a main priority is to work on fixing that. I have made a start by instituting a public forum at the beginning of council meetings (“Councillor Connection”) and have already released the schedule for my personal “Coffee and a Chat” meetings throughout the region. At the end of 100 days I am hoping that people will see that not only is there an open door policy, but that there is a greater connection with the mayor outside of the council office.

What was the first committee, of any kind, you ever sat on? What did you learn from that experience?

I was deputy head boy and chair of Interact at school a long time ago. At the end of the first Interact meeting a teacher saw me stacking the chairs. He told me, as I was the chair, I didn’t have to do that anymore as I could tell others to do it. I learnt that would never be my style of leadership and I have been stacking the chairs, making the tea or doing other hands-on work in any leadership role I have held since.

What are you doing to learn as much as possible about local body processes and protocols, as fast as possible?

I have enrolled in the LGNZ training programme and attended what is euphemistically called “Mayors’ School” in Wellington.

What are the three biggest issues for the local government sector as a whole (not just your own council) over the next five years?

Although it has been stalled, I still have concerns regarding the intent behind the Local Government Act 2002 Amendment Bill (No. 2) and believe we all need to keep some of the proposals found in that Bill on our collective radar. Global warming and sustainability issues will provide challenges for the future as will the effect of an aging population.

How would you describe the current working relationship between local and central government?

I am too fresh into the game to offer a perspective on this, sorry.

How would you like it to be in the future?

Collaborative and respectful.

What steps would you personally take to help progress the relationship to that point?

Building relationships at every opportunity.


MAYOR SAM BROUGHTON - SELWYN DISTRICT COUNCIL
MAYOR SAM BROUGHTON – SELWYN DISTRICT COUNCIL

MAYOR SAM BROUGHTON, SELWYN DISTRICT COUNCIL

What do you hope to achieve in your first hundred days?

During the first 100 days I hope to grow in knowledge of the role, both in responsibilities and, more importantly, relationships with councillors, staff and key community contacts.
We will have all shared our hopes for the next three years with our CEO and staff, and they will have reported back to us on costs, timings and implications for rates.

What was the first committee, of any kind, you ever sat on? And what did you learn from that experience?

The first committee that I can recall being a part of was probably the school Formal Committee organising our senior formal when I was in Form 7 / Year 13. I learned that a committee needs to have people with a range of skills on it. There need to be people who are good with ideas and kicking things off, as well as people who love detail, following things up and making sure they are complete.

What are you doing to learn as much as possible about local body processes and protocols, as fast as possible?

I have been on the council for the past six years and over that time I have learned a lot about our council’s process and protocols. Most of that I will keep. Some things we [just] have to do and I’ll also bring my own flavour to things. I have attended training for new mayors over the last week which was invaluable for learning about the role from people who have sat as mayor across the country over many years. There is still plenty I do not know about the role and will learn as I go. I will also attend specific training as appropriate and I’ll set up a mentoring arrangement with a trusted individual for support.

What are the three biggest issues for the local government sector as a whole (not just your own council) over the next five years?

  1. Funding. Land or capital valuation is not going to be an affordable or fair way for many in our communities to pay for the facilities and infrastructure that is required. There needs to be new ways connected with income or some other standard.
  2. Decision-making. It has been great that the government has devolved decision-making on a number of issues to a local level. This has been good for things like our Local Alcohol Plans. But they have asked us to make local decisions on things that I believe we need a national answer to like Easter trading. When the government has passed on decision-making they have also passed on the costs for administering the process. With no funding given to support the process this has put pressure on rates increases. The government has thus contributed to rates increases while at the same time telling councils to keep rates down.
3. Changing demographics. This puts a big pressure on councils. Planning for our future, understanding current demands and our ability to fund our assets into the future is a complex scientific (guessing) game.

How would you describe the current working relationship between local and central government? How would you like it to be in the future? What steps would you personally take to help progress the relationship to that point?

This relationship could be stronger. It has started in a good place with the current Minister for Local Government presenting at the recent new mayors training.
LGNZ has a good structure for a collective voice into central government discussions. I think a few more coffees and face-to-face gatherings for mayors with ministers would be helpful. I don’t know what other councils do but I’m looking to meet with appropriate ministers as required – if they will see me. 🙂

Could other places in New Zealand benefit from adopting the Auckland super-city model? If so, which ones and how?

These decisions need to be owned by each district or city that is considering it. The big population should not be able to override a smaller population council’s wishes.
Councils need to work together and look for new ways of collaborating. I have invited our neighbouring councils to morning tea so we can get to know one another and look for ways to be better together but I do not support Selwyn becoming part of an Auckland City-type model.

What are your views on shared services?

Sharing things is important. We can learn from one another to grow our local expertise and we can also outsource some council jobs to others who are proficient and specialise in an area such as building consents. Together we are stronger.


MAYOR HELEN WORBOYS - MANAWATU DISTRICT COUNCIL
MAYOR HELEN WORBOYS – MANAWATU DISTRICT COUNCIL

MAYOR HELEN WORBOYS, MANAWATU DISTRICT COUNCIL

What do you hope to achieve in your first hundred days?

I hope to have built a strong new governance team, who have together agreed on our values, prioritised our goals and aspirations, built an action plan and have started implementing steps to achieve these.

I will also introduce improved communication mechanisms for our community to better engage with council.

What was the first committee, of any kind, you ever sat on? And what did you learn from that experience?

Playcentre. I learnt about the importance of working as a team to achieve what is best for the organisation. I also learnt new skills and made new friends.

What are you doing to learn as much as possible about local body processes and protocols, as fast as possible?

  • Attended the LGNZ Mayors’ Induction workshop.
  • Attending our own council induction workshops.
  • 
Listening, reading and asking questions at every opportunity.

What are the three biggest issues for the local government sector as a whole (not just your own council) over the next five years?

The earthquake-prone building issue; infrastructural renewal and investment; and demographic changes.

How would you describe the current working relationship between local and central government?

It could be stronger with local councils being consulted / involved more in central government’s master plan. Demands placed on local councils by central government are currently not always resourced adequately for us to be able to achieve them.

How would you like it to be in the future?

I’d like to see more understanding and consideration by central government about the impact and implications of their decisions on local councils.

What steps would you personally take to help progress the relationship to that point?

I would retain good working relationships with our local MPs and work closely with neighbouring local councils to bring a strong collective voice to central government.

What are your views on shared services?

I support shared services where they firstly add benefit to our own ratepayers.


MAYOR JIM BOULT - QUEENSTOWN LAKES DISTRICT COUNCIL
MAYOR JIM BOULT – QUEENSTOWN LAKES DISTRICT COUNCIL

MAYOR JIM BOULT, QUEENSTOWN LAKES DISTRICT COUNCIL

What do you hope to achieve in your first hundred days?

A united and focused council concentrating on the big issues before us, which in my view are:

  • A visitor levy to help fund the essential infrastructure to support the ongoing growth in tourist numbers;
  • Developing a public transport system that is so good, so frequent and so affordable that locals and visitors alike will choose to use it;
  • Housing affordability;
  • Ensuring that the council is addressing the needs and expectations of our whole district, not just Queenstown; and
  • Water quality. We will be working closely with the Otago Regional Council to ensure the quality of our lakes and rivers is not compromised; and ensuring that the council’s reticulated supplies are safeguarded against the kind of contamination that impacted Havelock North.

While we won’t have solved any of these issues, I expect that after 100 days we will have identified pathways to make significant progress on them all.

  • Ensuring the newly-established committee system is bedded in and working well.
  • Locking in the confidence of residents in their newly-elected members.

What was the first committee, of any kind, you ever sat on? And what did you learn from that experience?

It’s so long ago that I can’t remember – back in the 1970s. Over the years I’ve lost count of the number of governance bodies I have served on, either as chair or as a member. Through all of these experiences I have learned the importance of being well briefed, doing your homework and being in possession of all the facts before making a decision.

What are the three biggest issues for the local government sector as a whole (not just your own council) over the next five years?

  • Delivering efficient services that meet community expectations, affordably.
  • Building partnerships.
  • Reflecting our diverse communities.

How would you describe the current working relationship between local and central government?

Our council has an enormously strong working relationship with central government. This is both historical and current and aided by my excellent relationships with ministers and others in parliament.

Could other places in New Zealand benefit from adopting the Auckland super-city model?

The super-city model is not appropriate for a large and diverse district like Queenstown Lakes. I can’t comment on whether it might work elsewhere.


This article was first published in the December 2016 issue of NZ Local Government Magazine.

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