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.

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.