With the filing deadline passed at Noon last Friday, despite official campaigns to drum up new candidates for October’s local body elections, a large slate of incumbents are unopposed, and thus already re-elected.

Most prominent of these are Mayors Alex Walker in CHB and Sandra Hazlehurst in Hastings. Clearly potential opponents thought their chances of winning against either of these powerhouses were rather slim. 

Both Walker and Hazlehurst have championed their districts relentlessly. Walker gives her constituents straight talk (a dying virtue amongst politicians) and Hazlehurst deserves credit for a major assault on Hastings’ housing needs. Both have offended one or another elements of their communities, but apparently not terribly enough to energise an opponent.

And so both are awarded a free pass and spared the distraction of eight weeks of campaigning … they can devote that time to preparing for the next term.

Mayor Kirsten Wise is not as fortunate, facing opposition from first-term councillor Nigel Simpson, who is likely more of a threat than the third candidate, John Smith.

Same with Wairoa’s Mayor Craig Little, who faces four opponents, which actually should work to his advantage.

A raft of incumbent councillors across the Bay have also gotten free passes – Will Foley and Jerf van Beek (HBRC); Thompson Hokianga (HBRC’s Māui ki te Tonga Māori Constituency); Tania Kerr, Alwyn Corban, Ann Redstone (HDC); and Kate Taylor, Tim Aitken, Jerry Greer and Brent Muggeridge (CHBDC).

But interestingly no free passes in Napier; there all wards are being contested, with incumbents standing in each case. Bit of a mini-revolution going on in Napier? None in Wairoa either.

The most interesting races?

I might be parochial, having served on the Regional Council, but HBRC is where the action is. Mainly in the Hastings Constituency where there are three seats and only one incumbent standing, Craig Foss. Joining Foss in the race are Jock Macintosh (the best known outside Foss), Sophie Siers (some recognition as a current Hastings councillor), Xan Harding (known to wine industry folks) and Steve Gibson (the dark horse).

What else to watch? 

The open Wairoa seat on the HBRC, where transplanted Napier councillor Api Tapine and farmer Di Roadley face off.

The open Flaxmere seat on the HDC, with both incumbents – the venerable Henare O’Keefe and one-termer Peleti Oli – leaving the political scene.

And of course, Napier mayoral, if it develops into a real race.

More substantive coverage of the elections to come.


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