The new Waitaki District Council has been sworn in.
Family, friends and members of the community gathered at the Oamaru Opera House for the swearing in of the mayor and councillors last week, and the first council meeting of the term.
Before the declaration ceremony and inaugural meeting of the 11th Waitaki District Council, the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group gave the council a traditional offering of a fine mat and tapa cloth and performed for the crowd of about 80 people.
Speaking on behalf of the Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group, Senetima Naoupu said it was a “blessing” to witness the inauguration of the Waitaki district’s first Pasifika councillor, and her sister, Hana Halalele.
“The tapa cloth is fundamental to our culture and it constitutes the most valuable property in the Tongan culture and the fine mat is symbolism of Samoan society and its communal identity,” Mrs Naoupu said.
“In our Pasifika community, and our Pasifika culture, ‘I’ does not exist. ‘I’ is part of ‘we’ and we, as the Pasifika community, are really humbled to be part of a new, collaborative governance that is encouraging inclusivity and diversity in the community of Waitaki.”
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher and his fellow Waitaki District Council elected members were then officially sworn in to begin their three-year term and Oamaru ward councillor Melanie Tavendale was appointed deputy mayor.
In his address, Mr Kircher said he was looking forward to working with the “strong and effective team” of new and returning councillors.
“Whether it’s for the first time, or the sixth, it’s still a humbling experience to be voted in by our community,” he said.
He outlined his hopes for a term of building upon work already started and addressing challenges as they arose.
“It’s my goal for the council to be an enabler of the community; enabling the doers in our community, the volunteers, the business people and the social entrepreneurs and the people in our many wonderful organisations across Waitaki.
“Some critics have focused on the various issues occurring at the moment, but I believe the general public understands that there will always be issues and they have voted for people they believe will do what they can to deal with the issues as they arise.”