Keen to progress the great things that are happening

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What do you know about the three candidates who are contesting the 2019 Waitaki mayoral election? The Oamaru Mail puts questions to Katrina Hazelhurst, Gary Kircher and Paul Mutch.

Gary Kircher

Age: 55

Occupation: Waitaki Mayor

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher is seeking another three years in the district’s top job.

Mr Kircher, who was first elected in 2013, grew up in Waitaki, says he is passionate about making it an even better place.

He and wife Kerry, who manages Oamaru’s Flight Centre, live in Weston and, between them, have five adult children and six grandchildren.

Q Why are you standing for mayor?

I thought hard about standing again and I decided that with so many great things happening in Waitaki, and a number at important stages in their progress, I want to keep working for Waitaki.

Those projects include progressing plans for Omarama, Otematata, Oamaru Harbour, the indoor sports centre and the district plan review, and improving road maintenance.

Equally, there are some important issues at the moment that I want to do what I can to get resolved, such as health services and options around waste. Many people agree things are going very well in Waitaki; let’s keep it moving ahead.

Q What are the three biggest issues you see in Waitaki and how will you address them?

1: Roading. A vast 1800km network that is under ever increasing pressure. It wasn’t built for the traffic it gets and the challenge is to meet that demand within an affordable, growing budget. More money and more maintenance.

2: District-wide economic development. North Otago is going well, while East Otago’s growth is more modest. I’m keen to progress initiatives to bring growth to the whole district, such as the proposed geopark.

3: Rubbish and recycling. A local landfill for Waitaki’s relatively small amount of rubbish doesn’t stack up financially, and recycling is patchy. We need innovative solutions like pyrolysis, plus a survey of residents to determine preferences.

Q Describe your vision of Oamaru Harbour 30 years from now.

It will be a place where the people of Waitaki can enjoy themselves, a place which has retained many of the qualities that people value so much today.

Various areas have been tidied up and now provide more opportunities for people to do the things they want to, whether that is to enjoy recreation, socialise or just relax.

It is a place which locals love and are proud of, and which our visitors are impressed with and fall in love with too. It is a place which continues to reflect what we have worked towards for the past 15 years.

Q Should the Waitaki district continue to pursue Unesco Global Geopark status?

Unesco Global Geoparks have proven themselves overseas to attract visitors to stay longer and to spend more, but they do much more than that.

As areas of geological, geographical and historical significance, Geoparks tell the stories of the land and of the people who lived there – stories of how the land shaped the people, and how the people shaped the land. Waitaki has a magnificent collection of sites and of stories, and sharing them enriches us in numerous ways. With our geopark proposed to cover the entire Waitaki District, it is a unique opportunity which best benefits us all.

Q Does Oamaru’s central business district need a revitalisation?

Its been more than 15 years since the last major upgrade occurred in Oamaru’s main business area, and it is definitely time. Planning for the CBD is under way. There’s no magic bullet which will turn around the retail sector, but the council’s role is to create attractive spaces and places. Good place-making won’t turn a poor business into a great one, but it’ll give our great businesses a better chance of success. And this isn’t restricted to just the CBD – the same applies to Oamaru’s North End, where I want to carry out landscaping improvements, and other towns and villages across Waitaki.

Q Does Oamaru need an indoor sports stadium?

The Recreation Centre has served Waitaki well for 30 years, but with limitations. It’s highly likely that the rec centre would stay in use for particular sports and activities, but that a new centre is built to allow more sports to be included, such as netball and even indoor tennis. The solution is a facility with five or six courts and associated facilities.

With funding from members of our community, along with substantial funding from trusts and government funds, the council’s contribution can be managed and we will have a facility which helps locals be more active and attracts tournaments, helping our economy.