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First-time candidate ousts veteran politician

New South Wairarapa mayor Alex Beijen. PHOTO/MARCUS ANSELM


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South Wairarapa has a new mayor in first-time candidate Alex Beijen.

Beijen, 52, of Martinborough, earned a sizeable victory over Viv Napier, the incumbent, in the provisional results announced yesterday.

Beijen had a lead of 511 over Napier with special votes yet to be counted. Former Featherston ward councillor Dayle Harwood came third with 445 votes.

There was no light at the end of the tunnel for Remutaka road campaigner Graham Farr, who came fourth with 309.

Napier served one term as mayor and was previously deputy to Adrienne Staples, who was re-elected in this election as Wairarapa’s sole Greater Wellington Regional Council representative.

Beijen said he had received messages of congratulation from both his predecessors and from friends and family around the world.

He will head a council with five other new faces.

Garrick Emms and Brenda West will represent the Featherston ward, and Greytown has a clean sweep of new faces in Rebecca Fox, Alastair Plimmer and Leigh Hay, formerly chair of the town’s community board.

Martinborough trio Pip Maynard, Pam Colenso and Brian Jephson, previously the deputy mayor, were returned.

Beijen campaigned on key campaign issues of waste, water management, culture and transparency.

He said they would remain at the forefront of his thinking as he entered office.

Current proposals for drinking water and wastewater in the district were “unsustainable”.

Broadcasting council and committee meetings is “bit of a no-brainer in today’s technology age and should allow people to be involved easier than taking time off work”.

The council’s performance needed to be benchmarked, using “empirical, or empirical as possible, data”.

He said that a campaign pledge to join the CouncilMark benchmarking scheme was another “no-brainer”

“We are totally blind on how our council is performing other than very broad measures, like debt as a percentage of GDP, or rates per head. Let’s get some really good data on how we’re performing from a governance level.”

The new mayor said the electorate can expect to see changes in the short, medium and the duration of his three-year spell.

“I would say that I would like to think that public will be seeing some minor changes within the first three-to-six months and after a year, to look back and say “this is on the right track, and we’re seeing improvement.

“A lot of that is communicating with the public, openly, what’s going on, and why decisions are being made. And that’s part of our openness and transparency.

“And then within two years we have seen a significant change in addressing all the issues that have come out of this last election.

“Like I said, I’m only one person at the table. But we need to form a cohesive team amongst council that does challenge information and proposed courses of action but when we have the information we work together as a team to implement it correctly.

“That’s just a team building challenge that the mayor is responsible for.”

Beijen paid tribute to former councillor Lee Carter, who had to pull out of the mayoral contest on medical advice. He said his campaign “would have been harder, and potentially vote splitting, if she had stood”.

The new council is due to be sworn in on October 30.

Napier sad to miss ‘exciting times’

Former South Wairarapa mayor Viv Napier. PHOTO/FILE

Outgoing South Wairarapa mayor Viv Napier wished the new district council well and expected “exciting times” after her election defeat.

Napier took the top job in 2016 after four terms as deputy mayor but was beaten in her re-election campaign by newcomer Alex Beijen.

She said she wished the incoming council “all the best”.

“There’s some exciting times ahead and I’m sad I’m not going to be there and doing some of those things. I hope they just put South Wairarapa to the front, and before anything else.”

She said the campaign, which also included Dayle Harwood and Graham Farr after Lee Carter’s withdrawal, had been “very civilised”.

“There hasn’t been any nastiness at all. I think that’s been great. I think there has been some other areas that have been quite full-on and had really personal attacks on each other.

“I don’t think that’s very good – that’s not my style anyway.”

She said she would be happy to help in the transition to a new council but said the organisation’s staff are “au fait” with the process, and other experienced councillors would also be on hand to help.

New councillors could find the change from being an advocate for their town to being a district councillor “tricky”, she said.

South Wairarapa is made up of three wards – Featherston, Martinborough and Greytown. Masterton and Carterton have “council at large” positions.

“It does take a little while to understand it. You’re always thinking about where you come from, but you need to be thinking next level up and looking at the big picture strategically for what is good for the district.

“And that can be quite hard because sometimes you have to make tough calls which might affect where you come from more than anywhere else. That’s part of the job.

“People, your own constituents, expect you to be barracking for them all the time. Which you are, but when it comes to something where it affects not just your area you have to look at the big picture and stand back from the ward.”

Napier said her defeat would give her more time to spend with her grandchildren.

“We’ve got grandkids in Mt Maunganui and I haven’t got to see them very much at all in the last three years.  One’s just two and I’ve hardly got to see her at all.”

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