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Caffell captains the new council team

Newly-elected Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell. PHOTO/JADE CVETKOV

It was a landslide victory for Gary Caffell who was elected Masterton’s new mayor on the weekend, receiving 4590 votes.

And the win was still sinking in on Sunday morning as Caffell reflected on the overwhelming support he had received from Masterton voters.

“I got a phone call very early [on Saturday] and had to keep my mouth shut for an hour or so, which was difficult,” he said.

“I’m absolutely delighted.”

Voters knew Caffell had strong feelings on issues, such as the civic facility, and those views were now backed with tangible support, he said.

First on Caffell’s to-do list was to “bridge the gap between the council and the community”, and he was pleased this was a priority for other elected members.

“Even before we have a meeting, I think we’ve got a united council,” he said.

“I’ve met with a few of them already, and all of us are saying we have to get closer to the community and work alongside the community.

“That’s just music to my ears.”

But there’s a lot of work to be done and “a hell of a lot of challenges ahead”, he said.

“We have to get feet on the ground and into it.”

Caffell wanted water infrastructure work to take priority – “it’s not going to be easy, and we will need to reprioritise other projects and funding”.

He also anticipated the new council would move quickly on progressing a civic facility outcome and a library extension and upgrade.

Caffell and many other members of the new council have been vocal about their support for the town hall site to be used for a civic facility.

About $5 million had also been put aside for library works, Caffell said, and there was now “a real opportunity to get that project off the ground really quick”.

Public consultation on plans would also be top of mind for Masterton’s new mayor.

Caffell said he was “gutted” the previous council did not go out to public consultation on this year’s annual plan, which included a 6.8 per cent rates increase.

“People spoke up about this during the election period.

“They really wanted to have a say. So that’s something I hope the council will take on board.”

He thanked his wife Barbara for “being terrific” and gave thanks to others who had been supportive of his campaign for the mayoralty.

“Honestly, I’m pretty humbled.

“I came about standing for mayor because a group of councillors came around here and asked me to.

“At that stage, I thought, gee, after four terms, am I past my use-by date?

“But I think the feeling was that the new council needed stability and a safe pair of hands for the next three years.”

Caffell said former mayor Lyn Patterson did a “terrific job” in her nine years in the role and said she would be “a hard act to follow”.

“She was a terrific ambassador for the town.

“We disagreed on certain things but at the end of the day, she did a really good job.”

He also said there was a pretty strong field of mayoral candidates this year and was “gratified” to win by the margin he did.

The second-highest polling mayoral candidate was Craig Bowyer, with 1101 votes. – NZLDR

  • Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Fresh and seasoned: The new Masterton council

It’s certainly a shake-up on Masterton District Council, with only four currently elected members making a return to the table, including new mayor Gary Caffell. Joining him from the previous council are David Holmes, Bex Johnson, and Tim Nelson.

Holmes, who was the highest polling At Large candidate is a seasoned councillor and brings with him a wealth of rural knowledge.

Tim Nelson, the principal of Lakeview School would now be entering his second term.

Bex Johnson, a third-term councillor, would be appointed Deputy Mayor. Caffell said he chose Johnson for the role because she had great community connections, was well-respected and was “not a yes person”.

“I don’t want a deputy who is going to agree with me all the way,” he said.

“If Bex thinks I’m getting off track, she’ll let me know.”

A familiar face making a return to council is Brent Goodwin, who is also a seasoned elected member but did not stand for re-election in 2019.

Fresh faces will also join the mix: Stella Lennox, Tom Hullena, Craig Bowyer, and Marama Tuuta.

Tuuta was elected unopposed to the Maori Ward seat.

Caffell said although he was “absolutely delighted” with the overall council lineup, the district was “losing good councillors”.

“The one I want to make particular mention of is Chris Peterson, who has been a councillor for several terms.

“He has been such an advocate for climate change, and he has turned me personally from being quite a sceptic to a believer.

He’s done that, I think, to quite a few councillors around the table. We’re going to really miss his voice on climate change.”

Masterton District Council’s first meeting will be at 2pm on October 26. – NZLDR


Progress results [votes received]


Craig Bowyer [1101], Jo Hayes [722], Tina Nixon [709], William Izard [515], Hakepa [67]


Hewitt Harrison [3098], Brent Gare [2799], Sandy Ryan [2330], Graham Dick [2246], Chris Peterson, [1961], Peter James [1568], Ryan Soriamo [1158], Drew Hullah [769], Hakepa [371]


Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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