Katikati resident and first-term Western Bay of Plenty councillor James Denyer has joined the race to become the district’s next mayor in October’s Local Body Elections.
And at 46, he’s not shying away from the fact that he’d bring a younger perspective. However, he says his past finance career, community development work and knowledge of local issues also make him a wise choice for the top job.
“I think I have the skills and experience to make a positive impact and provide leadership in a time of change; there’s a lot going on in the Local Government sector at the moment,” says James, who is standing for Mayor and a Katikati-Waihi Beach councillor seat.
“You’ve got Resource Management reform, Three Waters, and the ‘Future for Local Government Review’. I can provide that leadership and a younger perspective, and assist council to be agile in adapting to the changes.”
Moving to Katikati in 2009, James is a Rotarian, Aongatete Forest Project’s chair, a board member for Bay Conservation Alliance, and chair of the community-led development group, Whirihia Te Ara Ki Mua.
“My career background is in corporate finance in London, so I have a strong financial background, which is actually remarkably rare in Local Government, so my skillset is wider than just being a first-term councillor, in which role I also chair two council committees.”
James joins fellow WBOP councillor Don Thwaites, 59; Te Puke-based fellow councillor and Deputy Mayor John Scrimgeour; and Te Puke Economic Development Group’s managing director Mark Boyle, 61 in the mayoralty race – brought about by Mayor Garry Webber’s impending retirement – and believes he brings a fresher perspective.
“People comment that they want someone younger, and I do value diversity on council and different life experiences – and there’s nothing wrong with older candidates – but I think sometimes you just need someone with a bit more view of the future.”
Mayor Webber resigned after giving himself an age limit of 75 in the job – James didn’t sign up because of this, but says: “I agree with his perspective on that”.
Asked his main goals if elected Mayor, James talks by area. “At Waihi Beach you’ve got the upgraded library – I want to get on with that – and the Athenree crossing. In Katikati, obviously the bypass – but I recognise that’s going to be a political decision, so that’s more of advocacy.
“We want to upgrade footpaths, particularly on Main Street, and I’m keen to get a roundabout at each end of town – particularly Beach Rd/SH2.”
James wants to focus on ensuring the Te Puna community gets the right development in the right place. “So, broadly, what is the future for Te Puna? What development goes where?”
“Omokoroa – we’re almost there but we need to get the proposed SH2 intersection over the line. And, there’s housing intensification – so let’s keep some green space as well for recreation.”
Some of Te Puke’s infrastructure needs upgrading, particularly with roading, says James “And there’s plans for a new swimming pool, so I want to ensure that happens.”
Asked if he’d support amalgamation of WBOPDC with BOP councils, James says it’s worth looking at closer cooperation. “There’s synergies that can be can be gained from that.
“I think amalgamation at this point will be difficult, partly because you’ve got governance issues. I wouldn’t want to do it while there’s Commissioners at Tauranga City Council and they’ve also got quite a lot higher amount of debt.
Maintaining our voice (sidehead)
“The main concern is how do you maintain the voice for local decision making? WBOP district’s got 50,000-odd people; Tauranga has 140,000. For a town like Katikati with 5000 residents, people’s voices would just get lost in that.”
Three Waters? “Because it has been mandated by Central Government the council’s role is now to be agile enough to take advantage of opportunities that arise from that.”
And a bypass for Katikati? James “absolutely” supports this. “I was on the reference group that built the business case with NZTA. The problem is the criteria from government has changed a number of times over the years.
“The latest focus is safety and the ‘road to zero’, which is a good thing. But it does mean because Katikati bypass is not predicated on safety it doesn’t necessarily score highly on getting it done.”
However, if elected mayor James would continue to strongly advocate for it. Nominations for mayoral candidates is open July 15-August 12. The election is on October 8.
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