An idea whose time has come?
Better Democracy NZ
Laws has answer to poll blues
BRITTON BROUN – The Dominion Post | Monday, 15 October 2007
Michael Laws has taken Wanganui’s top job again, and with the country’s highest voter turnout has claimed that his “direct democracy” should be picked up by other councils.
Mr Laws won the mayoral election with a clear mandate of 56 per cent, but with a 63 per cent voter turnout he said it was about time other councils followed Wanganui’s key to success.
Wanganui’s council policy was decided by a public referendum each year that canvassed everything from the spelling of the town’s name to capital works projects, and even the proposed anti-gang legislation.
With at least half the population responding, Mr Laws said it kept voters in touch with the council and he would make it a personal mission to see other city and district councils adopt the method.
Mr Laws, who beat mayoral runner-up John Martin by over 3000 votes, would also be taking his place on the Whanganui District Health Board alongside outspoken surgeon Clive Solomon – who breezed into his seat with over 6700 votes.
Mr Solomon received huge public support when he was censured this year for leaking confidential documents to the media. He had also called the hospital “unsafe” after a paediatrics shortage, a clerical blunder that left hundreds of patients without hospital referrals and the debacle over gynaecologist Roman Hasil, who botched a series of tube-tying operations.
Palmerston North city councillor Jono Naylor has swept in as new mayor with a 4200 majority over incumbent Heather Tanguay, who was supported out of the council offices after her shock defeat.
With a 44 per cent voter turnout, Mrs Tanguay was ahead in the polls but a large undecided vote went Mr Naylor’s way.
Mr Naylor, who took 52 per cent of the vote, said his first task would be to work with the other city councillors – half of which were new – to create a cohesive unit.
Manawatu District mayoral incumbent Ian McKelvie beat former police officer Steve Gibson by over 2500 votes.
With the retirement of Bob Buchanan, farmer and district councillor Chalky Leary narrowly won the Rangitikei District mayoralty.