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Waitaki mayoral candidates Paul Mutch and Katrina Hazelhurst

Waitaki’s mayoral race is heating up as two new candidates have confirmed their plans to run.

Oamaru Harbour advocate Katrina Hazelhurst and Otago Field Days chairman Paul Mutch have put their hands up to be the next mayor of the Waitaki district, challenging incumbent mayor Gary Kircher.

Mrs Hazelhurst, a 20-year Oamaru resident, said her love for the area and a growing call from others to enter the race led her to shed her initial reluctance.

Mrs Hazelhurst moved to the area from Wellington when her husband, Andy Hazelhurst, took a role at Network Waitaki.

She has recently been visible in the community in her role with Friends of Oamaru Harbour and her vocal criticism of the restructuring process at Oamaru Hospital.

“I had an awful lot of people in the community .. approach me and ask me if I would be interested in standing,” she said.

“They felt because I’d shown leadership on issues about the harbour and the hospital that I’d be a good choice.

She said she wanted to see four “key changes” to how the Waitaki District Council operated: it should do more to look after the district’s most vulnerable, including having “unpleasant conversations” about crime, methamphetamine and alcohol addiction, and housing affordability; it needed to up its game in terms of communication, especially as it related to transparency; it needed to get the basic facilities “ticked off first” before embarking on aspirational projects; and ratepayers’ experiences with the council needed to improve.

Mr Mutch, a retired Palmerston farmer, said he wanted to push the issue of “inclusiveness” in the district, as well as rural roading and he wanted to raise the profile of farmers’ issues.

His nomination came from a sense of dissatisfaction others had in areas outside of the district’s main centre, Oamaru.

But Mr Mutch said he was approached because of his track record of support for business, establishing and running the rapidly growing Otago Field Days.

“I think others put my hand up,” Mr Mutch said.

“I’m focused on enterprise. I think it’s through supporting those who invest money, employ people, provide services – if we support them and .. provide platforms for community groups – I think we end up with a virtuous circle there.”

In 2016, Mr Mutch ran for the Waitaki District Council as a councillor in the Waihemo ward, losing to Cr Jan Wheeler (486 votes to 259).

Waitaki District Council

Nominations received this week*

Hana Halalele (Oamaru ward), Peter McLellan (Oamaru ward), Peter Newton (Waihemo ward), Heather McGregor (Waihemo Community Board) .

*As of 5.30pm Wednesday.