Where parochialism has ‘no room’ 

The local body elections are an opportunity for voters to elect people without narrow or limited views and who have the vision to consider the big picture, says a candidate for Waikato Regional Council.

The News asked candidates standing for Waipā District and Waikato Regional councils how they would ensure parochial views did not frustrate progress.

Judy Sherriff, who is standing in the regional council’s Waipā-King Country constituency was very clear where her views lay – there is no room for parochial views at council tables.

Her opponents Barry Quayle and Stu Kneebone made similar statements.
Quayle said projects like a third bridge for Cambridge, an issue seen as “parochial”, would have to go through a “fairly clinical” business case process.

Kneebone said councillors were not elected to make decisions by referendum but were obligated to make informed decisions on the back of sound and credible information.

Clyde Graf, the fourth candidate, said he supported the rights of everyone to be heard but if the majority of community members supported a project, “then I’m keen to be a champion.”

There was a clear divide in Waipā district. Most candidates standing for community boards said it would be their role to be parochial for their communities.

“Representing their community shouldn’t be seen as negative – it’s what they’re there for,” said David Slone.

Don Sanders said sometimes “parochial views” are the only way to get some progress.
Jo Davies-Colley said community board members focus on local issues.

“So, for a Cambridge representative, this would involve advocating for a third bridge if this was the general consensus of the Cambridge community. Similarly, Te Ara Wai could be a focus for the Te Awamutu Community Board.”

Jill Taylor said community boards had a major role in ensuring the views and opinions of residents were paramount while Delwyn Smith said council needed to do the best for all people and have a very clear definition of the outcomes measured against any project.

Mike Pettit, in reference to a third bridge in Cambridge, said he hoped residents could look past the political grandstanding. “It doesn’t make the process go faster.”

Marcus Gower said it was very easy to keep parochialism off the table by “having a mix of people from across the district with the right skill set involved so you have a range of different views.”

Mayoral candidate Chris Woodhams said it was easy for any person to have a limited scope or outlook on any topic which is why community input for every major project should be sought.

“Having any group who is too narrowly focused, unchecked on a matter, leads to problems. In significant projects we need to build wider groups of engaged community, and open communications to ensure council actually listens to feedback.”

Incumbent mayor Jim Mylchreest said councillors swear on oath they would act in the best interest of the district “even though they may be elected from a specific ward.”

“The community benefits from its existing scale and it is important to maintain a balance across the district.  It’s often not possible to duplicate all services at the same time but over time this balances out and everyone benefits from a strong district.”

Mayoral candidate Susan O’Regan said decisions at council were made on a district-wide benefit basis.

“There is no room for parochial thinking. Those who indulge in this approach, in my experience, are regularly reminded by others that we take an oath as councillors to make decision for the betterment of the whole of Waipā not just a specific town or area.”

Current deputy mayor Liz Stolwyk said elected members needed to have vision, good business acumen with a good dose of common sense to ensure healthy progress continued.

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