Brutality of the polls | Otago Daily Times News Online

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Dunedin’s one-term green mayor Aaron Hawkins felt the brutality at the ballot box during the weekend’s local elections.

Councilor Jules Radich’s first-term victory was decisive, part of what Mr Hawkins described as a clear appetite for change apparent across the country, with a push against the establishment and dissatisfaction with proposed government reforms, including Three Waters.

Like their counterparts in Dunedin, voters in Auckland and Christchurch chose more right-wing mayors in Wayne Brown and Phil Mauger than pensioners Phil Goff and Lianne Dalziel. But in Wellington, former Green Party chief of staff Tory Whanau reversed that trend by crushing another first-term mayor and seasoned councillor, Andy Foster.

Mr Hawkins, who had served on the council since 2013 before becoming mayor and continuing the leadership of the previous three terms of the late Dave Cull, said he was devastated by his loss.

It is difficult to assess how much the perception of his town hall may have been affected by the ramifications arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. Once he licks his wounds, however, we wouldn’t be surprised to see him appear on the national political scene.

Mr Radich said ‘the people of Dunedin have certainly spoken’, although he would do well to remember that many people continue to remain silent, with the percentage of Dunedin’s eligible population voting this time at 44.2 against 45.6 in the last elections.

What can be expected from Mr. Radich is not clear, apart from a resumption of his favorite project, the experimentation of a cob installation in St Clair, rejected by the last council. Will there be enough enthusiasm around the council table for a review of the redevelopment of George Street, on the understanding that modifying it to allow two-way traffic at this late stage could cost several million of dollars? That wouldn’t seem to fit in with his talk about sustainable budgets.

He has yet to be tested on his ability to wrangle a council with strong characters with opinions contrary to his own, and how far he could cross the gap to use the skills of those he might consider adversaries. .

It would be unwise to ignore top polls and able first-term adviser Sophie Barker when assigning leadership roles, even if her politics don’t match hers.

Will ever-controversial but ever-popular longtime adviser Lee Vandervis expect to be in the running for a major role as president? Would granting this be more or less problematic than passing it off as a piece of cake?

What rewards, in terms of jobs, might go to members of the business-focused Team Dunedin group led by Mr Radich, incumbent adviser Andrew Whiley and newbies Brent Weatherall and Kevin Gilbert, is unknown. (Cr Carmen Houlahan was originally a member of this group before deciding to have a mayoral tilt as well.)

Surprisingly, voters returned Bill Acklin, who completed three lackluster terms in 2013, then was voted out when he ran again in 2016. It’s hard to see that success as anything more than name recognition .

Other new councilors, from opposite ends of the political spectrum, are former council worker Cherry Lucas and Mandy Mayhem-Bullock, who completed a two-term apprenticeship with the Waikouaiti Coast Community Board. First-term councilor Rachel Elder was the highest-ranking unelected candidate.

In Invercargill, it was an ignominious end to Mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt’s long reign, with his deputy Nobby Clark taking the top job and Sir Tim failing to secure enough votes to serve on council.

In Queenstown, one-term councilor Glyn Lewers takes over as mayor from retiring Jim Boult, and Anne Munro replaces outgoing Mackenzie mayor Graham Smith.

Incumbent mayors, Cadogan brothers Tim (Central Otago, unopposed) and Bryan (Clutha), as well as Gary Kircher (Waitaki) survived any backlash from their terms.

However, in Gore and the Southland district there were close fights. Gore is set to elect the youngest mayor in New Zealand history.

Preliminary results have Ben Bell (23) just ahead of six-term mayor Tracy Hicks (70), while in Southland it’s too close to call with Rob Scott just ahead of Geoffrey Young and Mayor Gary Tong.

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