Northlanders line up for the leadership race for the region’s three local government mayors

Jason Smith (Kaipara), John Carter (Far North) and Sheryl Mai (Whangārei) all withdrew in local elections in October. Photo / Provided

The Mangawhai Northlanders in Ahipara are throwing their hats in the ring to become the region’s new mayors from October – amid a tsunami of leadership change from Tai Tokerau local government.

The contenders are bending to lead Northland’s three district councils – Far North, Whangārei and Kaipara – as the biggest combined changes to New Zealand’s democracy landscape unfold across local government and the country in his outfit.

Far North (FNDC) Mayor John Carter, Whangārei (WDC) Mayor Sheryl Mai and Kaipara (KDC) Mayor Dr. Jason Smith are all stepping down.

The change in leadership of the region will also have seen the change of all council chief executives in the October 8 local elections.

The new leaders will work within the framework of major changes led by the central government, including its controversial restructuring of the Three Waters.

This is accompanied by his plans for major changes to the functioning of local government, the law on resource management and the classifications of important natural areas.

Co-governance is increasing and Maori wards will also be introduced in the October elections.

The elected officials dominate the race for mayor of the Far North.

These include Deputy Mayor Ann Court, who also alternately serves as a councilor for the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa headquarters.

The new Far North mayor will earn $162,879 a year and lead local government democracy for about 70,000 residents.

The FNDC will have 11 elected officials including the mayor from October, against 10 currently. It will also have 19 community council members.

Current FNDC councilors Kelly Stratford and John Vujcich are also running for mayor, while also serving as councilors in their current Bay of Islands-Whangaroa and Hokianga-Kaikohe headquarters, respectively.

FNDC serving councilor Moko Tepania is also running for mayor and as a councilor in his new Ngā Tai o Tokerau Māori ward. Four of the elected members of the council will come from this district.

FNDC Te Hiku Community Board Vice President Jaqi Brown is also throwing her hat in the ring to be mayor. She is not standing for the community council or to be an advisor to the FNDC.

Meanwhile, Whangārei mayoral candidates include newcomers Mike Budd, Brad Flower, Shaquille Shortland and Fiona Green as well as incumbent councilors Vince Cocurullo and Ken Couper.

Whangārei’s new mayor will earn $163,689 a year and represent 100,000 people.

WDC has an elected council of 14 members, including the mayor.

In southern Northland, incumbent KDC councilor Victoria del Varis-Woodcock is running for mayor of Kaipara.

In February, de la Varis-Woodcock attended Wellington’s anti-mandate protests for nearly a week, addressing crowds gathered during his stay.

Kaipara’s Ash Nayyar is also a candidate for mayor of the KDC.

The mayor of KDC will earn $133,501 a year and represent approximately 25,000 residents. KDC will have 10 elected representatives, including the mayor, from October, up from nine currently.

Meanwhile, the new chairman of the Northland Regional Council (NRC) will be chosen by its nine new councilors after elections on October 8.

Other than potential mayors, the potential NRC president cannot run for that specific position.

Current NRC President Penny Smart is running again for Regional Councilor in her Kaipara constituency, as is Vice President Justin Blaikie in the council’s new, vastly expanded Far North General Constituency.

The NRC president will be the region’s third highest-paid elected local government leader, earning $133,892 a year and representing around 195,000 Northlanders.

Northland will have 63 elected representatives in four councils from October – three mayors, a president, 40 councilors and 19 community council members.

This represents an increase of 61 elected representatives with the addition of one new councilor each for FNDC and KDC.

Official nominations of candidates for local government elections must be lodged by August 12, after which the full list of Northland candidates can be confirmed.

Voting materials are mailed to registered voters between September 16 and 21 with voting closing at noon on October 8.

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