Preparing for growth, dealing with infrastructure issues and giving the district a strong voice are some key aspirations for the people running for Horowhenua’s next mayor.
With voting under way in the Horowhenua District Council elections, three people are standing to be mayor.
Incumbent Bernie Wanden has served one term as the district’s mayor and is running for a second. He is being challenged by sitting councillors Victoria Kaye-Simmons, who has been on the council for 12 years, and Sam Jennings, who has served one term.
Jennings is also running for council, while Kaye-Simmons has gone for an all-or-nothing approach for just the mayoralty.
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Stuff asked all three candidates for two or three key things they wanted to do if elected, and their views on issues affecting the district.
Wanden wanted to build a team that could focus on real issues, especially with a lot of change around the council table.
“There is a huge amount facing us,” he said. “The amount of Government reforms in front of us.
“The big decision is [Ōtaki to North of Levin expressway] and once that gets signed off by Cabinet, it will give us a focus to be able to do a lot more things.”
He said he wanted to transform the Levin town centre because it had been neglected and had State Highway 1 running through the middle.
The first thing on Kaye-Simmons’ list was to ensure a strong and connected team of councillors to be effective for the entire district.
She wanted to advocate to have the community engaged over a resource recovery centre for education, “including emphasis on all the Rs: refuse, replace, reuse, reduce, recycle, rot”.
Enhancing community wellbeing and relationships would benefit the community and this included advocating to ensure health and social services met the district’s needs, she said.
Jennings said he had been straight forward about the three things he wanted to do if elected.
“Getting the council house in order and lifting performance, tackling long-standing infrastructure issues like broken footpaths, potholes and reining in spending.”
Kaye-Simmons said Three Waters was happening and the council needed to be ready to ensure a local voice was strong enough to be heard.
Jennings was against it because he didn’t like its governance and he wanted the people to be democratically accountable.
Wanden was for Three Waters but had concerns about how projects in the council’s Long-Term Plan would come to fruition, so he wanted more detail. He said their rate payers would not be able to afford the debt capacity long term and the region needed major investment.
Wanden said Three Waters would affect things, but the council had a plan for the growth and to manage the necessary infrastructure. The council had done a feasibility study on a new reservoir that would increase capacity for water and there were plans to upgrade the waste water treatment plant.
Jennings was for the growth happening in the region because it brought opportunity, but it needed to be well planned so there weren’t unforeseen consequences. He wanted to focus on “core stuff, not the fluff”, like the new water reservoir.
Jennings said all the options for waste management and minimisation in the district, as well as the future of the site if it did close, hadn’t been considered. He wanted more information.
Wanden wanted the landfill to close because he didn’t think they should be putting waste into the ground there and it was having an adverse effect on the Hokio area.
Kaye-Simmons said the decision had been deferred to the new council.
Jennings was for the intensification of housing in urban areas and looking at how to incorporate development in other parts of the district, but it had to be well managed. Productive soil in other areas had to be protected.
Wanden said the council had made good progress with housing in the past year, had appointed a housing development manager, and were partnering with Kāinga Ora, developers and other agencies.
Kaye-Simmons said the council was enabling simpler ways of getting housing built faster and was supportive of the partnership between Ministry of Housing and Urban Development, developers, Kāinga Ora and other organisations to build homes as quickly as possible.
Kaye-Simmons said getting stormwater treated to a high standard was paramount. She said she had secured funding for a development plan.
Jennings said the lake was a complex issue because it was privately owned, but he was happy to be part of the council that had progressed projects to improve the lake.
Wanden said there was better focus on improving the quality of the lake and he hoped to find long-term solutions.
Wanden said climate change was becoming more important due an increase in significant rain fail, so they needed to manage when stormwater systems were under pressure, but also when there wasn’t enough rain in summer so people could get the necessary supply.
Jennings said the council needed to focus on adaptive measures, but he wasn’t into “token” stuff like changing the council’s car fleet to electric vehicles.
Kaye-Simmons said the council needed to plan for better resilience and ensure it was ready, especially with recent weather events causing havoc in the region.