Mix of fresh faces, old hands

Humbled as ever . . . Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher celebrates winning his fourth term, with wife Kerry, and three grandchildren (from left) Elyse (5) and Eva (3) Pietnzer, and Ayda Kircher (3), at his Weston home on Saturday. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Youth and experience.

Waitaki’s voters chose a mix of fresh faces and some old hands to represent them on the Waitaki District Council in the recent local body elections.

In the Oamaru ward, first-time candidate Rebecca Ryan (32) topped the polls and will join other newcomers Tim Blackler (34) and 26-year-old Courtney Linwood, the youngest councillor in the district’s history, when the council meets later this month.

Incumbent councillors Jim Hopkins, Hana Halalele and Jeremy Holding were re-elected, while sitting councillor Kelli Williams was ousted by Miss Linwood for the sixth seat, by 185 votes.

In the Corriedale ward, newcomer John McCone was successful, joining incumbent Guy Percival. Jim Thomson held his Waihemo seat, while Brent Cowles was elected unopposed in Ahuriri.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher was re›elected for his fourth term at the helm, beating challenger Paul Mutch by 3104 votes.

Mr Kircher was ‘‘relieved’’ to hold on to his seat after a lengthy campaign, and said it was as humbling as when he was first elected in 2013.

The public had been ‘‘spoilt for choice’’ with this year’s candidates, and voters had delivered another good team, with a mix of youth and experience, for the next term.

‘‘From what I know of the new ones, they bring great experience and the incumbents bring a lot of great experience,’’ Mr Kircher said.

‘‘The important thing is making sure you’ve got people who can make good considered decisions on things, who will ask the right questions, who have some good background to actually base things on.

‘‘There’s a real mix of social skills — social wellbeing skills, economic wellbeing skills — there’s a real range of things in there. I think that bodes pretty well for what the future will hold for this council.’’

Earlier this week, Mr Kircher met with the councillors›elect, learning their backgrounds and abilities, and giving them an introduction to the council chambers.

Priorities for the next term included the council’s transformation plan, better governance and the various major reforms.

‘‘They are the most impactful on local government that it’s ever been since 1989.’’

While unsuccessful in obtaining the top job, Mr Mutch said he enjoyed campaigning for the mayoralty.

‘‘I would have liked a better result for my supporters, but it wasn’t to be,’’ Mr Mutch said.

There had been funny moments throughout the campaign, including feeling like he was in the ‘‘Monty Python Life of Brian stoning scene’’ during the Rotary Club of Oamaru Meet the Candidates meeting, combined with more poignant moments.

‘‘The sober moments were those encounters of loneliness, poverty and illness.’’

After also running unsuccessfully in the 2019 election, Mr Mutch did not rule out standing again in 2025.

‘‘I would certainly stand again. Waitaki communities could lead the way with social and economic policy.’’

He extended his best wishes to the new council.