Marlborough Mayor John Leggett has been elected again Photo: Matt Brown.

Mayor wants communication to be key

Marlborough’s newly elected mayor has pledged to make public communication key as he gets set to start his second term.

John Leggett has emerged victorious by a landslide victory of about 3000 votes.

And he has been quick to make assurances that concerns raised by the public throughout the election process will be addressed.

Speaking from his Blenheim home shortly after his win was announced, mayor Leggett says he is “very happy” to have been chosen again.

He also paid credit to his opponent and re-elected councilor, Jamie Arbuckle.

“Jamie came out of the starting blocks very well and campaigned well. I always knew it was going to be a battle to get out there.

“It’s been a bit of a nervous wait, especially when it got to 2pm and there was no phone call. I began to think no news was bad news,” he says.

It was down to the wire today as last-minute voters cast their ballot just before the cutoff point of 12 noon.

Mayor Leggett celebrated on Saturday night with partner Anne Best at Biddy Kate’s Irish Bar, owned by friend and former deputy mayor Terry Sloan.

He was also joined by some council colleagues.

“She’s been a fantastic support, far and away the best supporter I have,” says John.

He also revealed the election has shown him the importance of public engagement.

“The election process always brings out good public engagement as people put down issues they want us to address- a lot of which we are.

“One thing we need to do better is communicate and let people know what we’ve got on the agenda,” he says.

Jamie Arbuckle missed out on his third try at taking out the top spot.

He says he was “really disappointed” not to take the council’s top spot and ruled out a future bid.

“We put a lot of effort into the mayoralty this time. I’m personally disappointed; I thought we had the numbers.

“It was our third attempt and last attempt – we tried our best,” he says.

Candidates Thelma Sowman, wife of former mayor Alistair Sowman, and David Croad have been successful in their bid to take up councillor posts.

They will be a welcome addition, says mayor Leggett.

“There have to be vacancies to keep the way clear for new people coming in, that’s a good thing we need new, blood and good people.”

Electoral officer Dean Heiford says Tuesday is the cut-off date to send votes using the postal service. Photo: Glyn Walters.

Low vote numbers as deadline date looms

Marlborough’s electoral officer hopes to see a turnaround in low voting levels as the cut off date draws closer.

Lackluster voting in Marlborough has seen the number of people returning their ballot so far sitting at around just 25 per cent.

But Marlborough District Council electoral officer Dean Heiford says he expects to see numbers rise as the deadline approaches.

Latest figures from the election management company used to count votes across the region have revealed low return numbers do far.

Statistics from Christchurch-based business electionz show the first postal votes came in on 24 September.

Out of 34,026 electors in Marlborough, 22.8 per cent had returned their vote by Monday evening.

This compares to 29.59 per cent for the same period during the last local election.

Dean says early return rates are a bit lower in Marlborough than they were in 2016.

But he says the final turnout figure could yet increase substantially.

“However, early returns don’t determine the final turnout. In 2016 the early returns for New Zealand were lower than in 2010 and 2013, but the final turnout figure was higher”, he says.

NZ Post have dedicated extra resource for local elections, however postal days, offices and boxes have declined in the last three years.

Dean says people should be aware the last posting date is Tuesday 8 October.

“After Tuesday please drop off your voting envelope at the Council office in Seymour St, Blenheim or the Picton Library and Service Centre,” he says.

If you haven’t received your voting papers, contact your local electoral officer. Email [email protected] or Ph: 03 520 7400 before 5.00 pm on Friday 11 October.

Voting closes on Saturday 12 October at 12 noon.

Blenheim ward candidate Cyril Dawson is making a second bid to be elected on to Marlborough District Council. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Candidate’s bid to sway voters as election date looms

Blenheim ward candidates have made a bid to sway undecided voters as the cutoff date for voting edges closer.

With less than two weeks to go until voting closes for both Marlborough District Council and Nelson Marlborough Health, council candidates spoke to an audience of Grey Power members.

Around 50 members were at the Wesley Centre in Blenheim on Thursday to hear firsthand why each candidate believed a vote for them was the right one.

Pete Watson was missing from the line-up as he attended his father’s funeral.

But Tony Norman, who nominated Pete’s candidacy, stepped-up on his behalf to deliver the key points, including reining-in rates and better town planning.

“By my analysis he’s a thinker, a leader in his own way, got good ideas but very importantly he’s not afraid to speak up.

“He will I believe, poke his head above the parapet and challenge any bad decisions,” he says.

Each candidate was given two minutes to outline policies and give the audience some background information about themselves.

The majority spoke up for revitalisation of the central business district and also for protecting the environment.

Cyril Dawson, who’s campaigned under the slogan ‘Grassroots Ratepayer’ spoke candidly about his bid to support people on lower incomes.

“I’m a bit peeved about how our money is being spent. I open my own rates bill and think ‘fudge cakes.’ Council has to prioritise where our money is spent,” he says.

First time candidates such Deborah Dalliessi, Matt Flight, Gerry Roodakker, and Meg Martin spoke passionately about the changes they wanted to see.

Gerry says he was standing in a bid to repay the support he has been given over the years.

He says that now he is retired he has ‘all the time in the world’ to help.

“The reason I am standing is to give back to all those people who have supported me throughout the years.”

Mayoral candidate and current councilor Jamie Arbuckle was greeted with strong applause as he outlined his plans.

“I will actually stand up and argue for you the people,” he says.

He added that while he was the youngest candidates, he was also one of the most experienced with nine years of experience.

First time candidate Deborah Dalliessi spoke about her passion for helping.

“My passion is aging well. If you elect me, I will go beyond the call of duty. I have had the privilege of seeing what it’s like to age … I ask you to vote for a strong woman and a strong advocate for you.”

The session ended with candidates answering questions already given to them by Grey Power Marlborough members.

Voting closes on 12 October at 12pm.

Project coordinator Alec McNeil is overseeing a nationwide initiative which could see people paid to recycle. Photo: Matt Brown.

Cash for trash

Marlborough could help lead the way in a national bid to help boost recycling levels.

The council’s solid waste manager Alec McNeil will oversee a pioneering project which could see people paid to drop off empty drink containers.

And he believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative.

“Marlborough is used to source separation of recycling so the possibility of a future Container Recycle Scheme (CRS) should complement and add to our existing approach,” he says.

Council's solid waste manager Alec McNeil believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative. Photo: Matt Brown.
Council’s solid waste manager Alec McNeil believes Marlburians will be quick to take up the initiative. Photo: Matt Brown.

Under the scheme, which was unveiled last week, plastic, glass and aluminium drink containers will carry a refundable deposit, potentially between 5-20 cents each.

Helping people cash in on their empties could be key to boosting recycling levels.

Alec says he believes any initiative would rely on being readily available.

“A key focus of the design will be ensuring equity of service provision across NZ that affords all communities the opportunity to engage with the system,” he says.

“At a more strategic level a CRS changes the way we think about containers by reintroducing a value back into the material”.

Marlborough and Auckland councils will carry out the project design together following a government funding boost of almost $1 million.

Alec, who is project coordinator and deputy spokesman is a trustee on the Agrecovery Foundation Trust Board.

He says the scheme will help keeps useful resources out of landfills and has the potential to create new jobs.

The two councils will work with the Ministry for the Environment and others including the beverage, packaging and recycling industries, councils, retailers, charitable organisations, Māori and consumer representatives.

The application was initiated from involvement with the National Resource Recovery Group (NRR).

The NRR was convened by the Ministry for the Environment to consider a response to the recycling challenges facing NZ.

“In lieu of the contraction of markets particularly post the ‘National Sword’ policy implemented by China,” Alec says.

China has introduced strict rules around importing solid wastes as raw materials. The policy bans various plastic, paper and solid waste.

Alec says a CRS scheme would impact on material flow.

“Auckland and Marlborough councils offered to submit an application to the waste minimisation fund to facilitate a working group that would design a CRS for NZ.“

A final design is due to be presented to the Government by August 2020 and rolled out in 2022.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett with retiring deputy mayor Terry Sloan. Photo: Supplied.

Trio of council stalwarts bid a fond farewell

They clocked up an impressive 27 years of service between them and were each given a resounding round of applause as they officially retired from local politics.

Clapping and cheers rang out in council chambers as a trio of Marlborough District Council members were officially recognised for their contributions to the region.

Marlborough’s deputy mayor Terry Sloan, Wairau-Awatere ward councillor, Geoff Evans and Marlborough Sounds ward councillor Trevor Hook were bid a fond farewell from their council colleagues.

And Marlborough Mayor John Leggett paid a tribute to each, thanking them for their hard work and dedication.

Terry, who served two terms as deputy mayor and one as a councillor, says the moment was quite an emotional one.

Speaking to the Marlborough Weekly on Monday, Terry says he couldn’t rule out a return to council later. But concentrating on his family and business was a top priority, he says.

“It’s about offloading quite a bit of work and commitment,” he says.

“Doing that enables you to spend a bit more time with family and work.”

He says most of the memories from his nine-year tenure were good ones, but he will “miss the information”.

“I’m a bit of a nosy bugger,” he says. “I like knowing what’s going on, but that’s not life changing stuff.

“I’ll miss everyone that I was involved with. I built a lot of friendships and relationships.”

And although Terry only willingly donned his deputy mayoral chains twice, he won’t officially hang them up until election day.

He says the deputy mayoral pendant was designed for former deputy mayor and now councillor Jenny Andrews and didn’t “suit him”.

“It’s not something I hung out to wear,” he says.

Terry says getting a position like deputy mayor is impossible without a lot of people throwing in their support.

“Thanks for all the support that I’ve had,” he says. “It’s really humbling.”

Both Geoff Evans and Te Mahia Bay Resort co-owner Trevor Hook also served for nine years.

Q&A with councillor Mark Peters

Councillor Mark Peters is seeking a second term standing for the Blenheim Ward- he has a lot he still wants to achieve.

What prompted your decision to stand for council and was it a difficult decision to make?

I have a lot of unfinished work from having served just one term and believe I can make worthwhile contributions in a second term. It wasn’t difficult to decide to do so.

If successful, what matters the most to you in terms of what you would like to achieve for the community?

Really good financial governance is important to me. I cannot abide waste or unnecessary expenditure. I want to see a vibrant CBD in Blenheim, wise use of our precious resources, appropriate care for the environment, really good post-secondary options for our young people and economic growth to help all Marlborough people.

I want our rates to be fairly set with minimal rises and spent wisely for the best possible outcomes.

What areas do you feel council needs to refocus its energies on?

This past term has seen a well settled and committed Council. So, with a number of new faces to be welcomed in the next term it is important to continue an environment where everyone is able to say what they feel, debate issues strongly but accept collective responsibility for democratic conclusions reached.

We need to ensure completion of our programmes of capital works on budget and to make real inroads into mitigating factors in climate change. We must ensure we have great facilities and sustainable resource use to hand over to future generations.

What makes you proud to be a Marlburian?

Not only does Marlborough have outstanding natural beauty, great resources and some world class products, the people here are kind and inclusive. We tend to deal with things pragmatically, even if we have different views and we like to give everyone a fair go.

People have a lot of choice in who they vote for, why should they vote for you?

Because I care about this place and its people. I have many years of practical governance experience and hold a number of financial qualifications. I am totally committed to making Marlborough an even better place to live in and believe I can make a difference.


Marlborough Mayor John Leggett opened the Seddon water treatment plant in March. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

Tap water woes over

After decades of boiling water households in Seddon have been given the go ahead to drink straight from the tap.

Residents have been given the all clear to stop boiling their drinking water, unless they’re making a cuppa.

The milestone move comes after the opening of a multi-million-dollar water treatment plant in April.

Marlborough District Council bosses yesterday revealed they had finally been given the all-clear from the Ministry of Health.

Council Chief Executive Mark Wheeler said this was a monumental milestone.

“Being able to turn on the tap and fill up a glass of water that’s safe to drink is something this community has been waiting a very long time for.

“Today, that day has finally come,” he says.

“I’d like to thank all of those involved in the treatment plant project over the years, particularly the Awatere Seddon Water Group, who worked tirelessly to bring it to fruition.

“Council’s water engineering team – Stephen Rooney, Stuart Donaldson, Mark Power, Erica Hobbs, and Robin Millard, Nelson Marlborough District Health Board staff, along with many others who put in the hard yards to deliver a world-class, modern water treatment facility.

“It’s great to see the community of Seddon benefitting as a result of everyone working together in a spirit of cooperation.”

Efforts to provide safe drinking water from the tap in Seddon have been underway since at least 1975.

From the outset, council and residents had to wrestle with the cost of modern water treatment for a small community.

Awatere Seddon Water Group secretary Liz Cleaver says the move is one more step on the road to recovery for the township.

“… our wee town is well on the way to recovery after the destructive earthquakes of recent years.”

Drinking Water Assessor for Nelson Marlborough Health David Speedy, acknowledged the huge effort put in by water treatment staff and technical advisors to collect and present the compliance information.

“The Council and community can be justifiably proud that this plant is working as designed and meets the Drinking Water Standards for New Zealand,” he says.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett. Photo: Paula Hulburt.

The view from the top

With council elections less than two months away, Paula Hulburt catches up with current mayor John Leggett.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett is a man on a mission.

Three years in office and there is much he wants to achieve; a legacy still being shaped.

On his intention to stand again for the top job John says it was not a difficult decision.

“I think about am I going to be useful or are there others who should step up instead? There are still things I want to do, I want to keep the momentum going,” he says.

The Blenheim lawyer won a landslide victory in 2016 and alongside Rick Ireland and Jamie Arbuckle is one of three confirmed mayoral candidates for the upcoming elections in October.

After a baptism of fire in the wake of the Kaikōura earthquake, John, a two-term councillor, has his eye very much on the future.

But he is quick to point out that none of what he has achieved to date would not have been possible without the support of his council colleagues or his partner, Anne Best,

“Anne has been a big supporter in the last three years, and I couldn’t do this without her. I still have things I want to do, and she gets that.”

Under John’s savvy quietude, a cohesive council has thrived. He is proud of what they [council] have achieved, even if he hasn’t always agreed with the decisions made.

“As mayor, I get just vote. I’m a great believer that if you make an informed decision, it’s a good decision.

‘Strong debate and collective buy-in means we don’t have the bickering you might see elsewhere.

“I’m very conscious about the way I want something to go but you accept it [the decisions] and get on with it”.

Getting the Marlborough Environment Plan (MEP) over the finishing line is a top priority should he be elected again.

A single-source document to replace the Marlborough Regional Policy Statement, the Marlborough Sounds Resource Management Plan and the Wairau/Awatere Resource Management Plan, MEP is a project John feels strongly about.

“Hopefully we can come up with something as a council that not only meets our statutory obligations but a plan that allows the people that are affected by it to live their lives and do what they need to do,” he says.

Moving forward is a key message for the current mayor.

Nine years after he was first elected to council, John is proud to tick-off some of his to-do list.

“Almost three years to the day since we went down the Awatere Hall project route it’s opening.

“I’m really keen to keep the momentum going.

“I’ve spent nine years in council and one of the things I was really hoping to see happen was the lifting of the boil water notice in Seddon.

“We’re really close to that.

Infrastructure upgrades in the next 10 years will see a half a billion-dollar investment by council.

The next Marlborough mayor will have some big decisions to make, says John.

“As a councillor you’re open to public scrutiny and have to be prepared for the attention you get over a decision you make.

“If the community are aware of your decision process it helps. They may not like a rate rise but if they understand why it helps,” he says.

A successful campaign will also see John work alongside a new deputy mayor as Terry Sloan will not be standing.

While wholly appreciative of the work Terry has done, indeed John is quick to praise all his colleagues, he is not opposed to change.

“I’m completely open-minded; see who steps up. It’s important to have fresh ideas and fresh people.

“It’s important to have new people coming in, it brings freshness to any organisation,” he says.

But while he still feels he has work to achieve on behalf of the community, John is happy to put his name forward.

“You’re privy to some pretty ground-breaking decisions for the community and that’s a privilege”.

Nominations for council close on 16 August 2019.

Jamie Arbuckle has revealed his intention to stand for Marlborough Mayor. Photo: Matt Brown.

Arbuckle up for mayor

A Blenheim councillor has revealed his plans to become Marlborough’s youngest-ever mayor.

Just days before the cut off date for nominations, Jamie Arbuckle, 37, has announced his intent to take the top spot from Marlborough Mayor John Leggett.

The move follows an announcement by his wife Sally to run for a seat on council.

Jamie, who has run for the mayoralty three times previously, says he believes his nine years of experience will count in his favour this time.

“It is time for decisive leadership on key regional issues. I will deliver action on the issues that need addressing,” he says.

The councillor of nine years is calling for a Blenheim bypass and a reduction in rates.

He says financial hardship will be a problem faced by some constituents if rate rises continue.

“Rates are not sustainable or affordable. Marlborough has an ageing demographic of 65-plus, and many are on fixed incomes.

“With interest rates dropping near nil returns on savings, financial hardship and cashflow will be a real issue for some ratepayers.

“Plenty of reports come though council on the impact of increasing council rates but there’s never any action. I will change that.”

Jamie says plans for larger ferries will put more of a strain on Blenheim’s already congested main streets.

He believes the community needs to be consulted on all options before a decision is made.

“We need a bypass for Blenheim.

“Larger ferries mean more traffic heading our way. It is not a central government problem. It is ours.

“Removing all the carparks on Grove Road, Main Street and Nelson Street is not a long-term solution. With a government-funded business case we can consult with the community on all the options, with all the costs and facts,” he says.

Jamie says he has been considering running for mayor for a while.

Should he and his wife be successful in their election bids, it would be the first time a husband and wife have both served on council.

“Nothing can be taken for granted and in the next six weeks we will find out what is going to happen but we’ve both been very busy already.

“It won’t be a conflict of interest to me. Sally will represent Wairau-Awatere and I firmly believe that her attentions are the right ones.

“That’s what constituents should be voting on.

“There is a sense of urgency in the community on a number of issues.

“I feel the time is right for me to lead the region”.

Jamie joins current mayor John Leggett and first-time mayoral candidate Rick Ireland in the running for the mayoralty.

Marlborough mayor John Leggett is please Government is taking a closer look at water quality. Photo: Matt Brown.

Water watchdog plan welcomed

Plans for a national water watchdog have been welcomed by the mayor – but with a warning.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett has embraced government plans to approve a dedicated watchdog and new water regulations.

But he cautioned costs could be an issue for council trying to reach “new benchmarks”.

“The devil could be in the detail … “There is still a long way to go on this issue.

“Council will need to ensure the standards and timeframes are set appropriately so that Marlborough can afford the investment required to meet the new benchmarks,” he says.

Around 34,000 people across the country become ill from their drinking water every year.

Many thousands must boil their water to drink it safely, including Seddon where a boil water notice is still in place.

Marlborough District Council staff are working with officials from the Ministry of Health to ensure water from the new multi-million-dollar water treatment plant meets stringent safety requirements.

Mayor Leggett says the council supports a move from central government to “strengthen its leadership role.”

“It’s great to see that this step change, initially at the regulatory end, is finally occurring,” he says.

Minister of Health David Clark says public safety is a non-negotiable priority.

“Access to safe, clean drinking water is a birth-right for New Zealanders and a key concern for communities up and down the country. Wherever they live, consumers and communities expect to be able to turn on the tap and drink the water without fear of getting ill.”