Ross McRobie will be elected to the Waitaki District Council’s Ahuriri ward unopposed, but he still made his case to the community at the Rotary Club of Oamaru’s meet the candidates forum on Tuesday night.
Mr McRobie was one of 19 councillor candidates – for the Corriedale, Waihemo, Ahuriri and Oamaru wards – who came to the forum at the Oamaru Opera House. They were all given two minutes to introduce themselves and talk about the issues they cared about.
At present, Mr McRobie is a Queenstown-Lakes District councillor and chairs the council’s audit, finance and risk committee.
But next week he permanently moves to Otematata, where he and his wife, Petrea, have long had a holiday home. He will replace Craig Dawson, who did not seek re-election, as the Ahuriri ward councillor.
“Someone’s called me a councillor-elect and others have said ‘you got a landslide victory’,” Mr McRobie said.
Mr McRobie, who described himself as “a good advocate” and “a listener”, has had a career as a chartered accountant and in governance.
“I like to get stuff done, I’m a doer and I’m coming out of an environment where the [Queenstown-Lakes] council is a can-do council,” he said.
There were several things he wanted to encourage in the Waitaki District Council, including improvement in the district’s economic development.
“Despite what has been said, our performance in the economic space has been a little bit on par with Clutha, and I don’t think that’s a good thing to be parring ourself with,” he said.
Supporting tourism growth and the associated infrastructure was important, as was getting community buy-in and reviewing the financials for the Waitaki Whitestone Geopark, he said.
“And it’s very important we get the council out and about into the districts – they’re not an Oamaru council only,” he said.
Former Waitaki Mayor Alan McLay, who moderated Tuesday night’s forum, apologised to those turned away from the event. The 101-seat ODT InkBox was at capacity by 7pm – and at least 20 people were turned away.
But Mr McLay thanked those who did come to hear from those seeking a role at the Waitaki District Council – and he said he knew well the feeling of being left on the outside after an election. Mr McLay suffered defeat in the 2007 Waitaki mayoral race.
“There are far more candidates here than there are jobs,” Mr McLay said. “It really hurts.”
Waitaki mayoral candidates Gary Kircher, Katrina Hazelhurst and Paul Mutch also made their cases.
Mr Mutch leaned on his past business experience, touting his role at the Palmerston and Waihemo A&P Association show and growing Otago Field Days, incumbent Mr Kircher continued his use of his experience as both mayor and councillor as a difference maker and Mrs Hazelhurst pushed back on the need for governance experience, citing her credentials as an “unpaid” representative of and advocate for individuals and groups her entire life.