Mayoralty a two-horse race
A last-hour nomination has set up a two-horse race for the city mayoralty.
Nominations closed at midday on Friday, and Grant Smith, sitting mayor since February 2015, will be joined on the hustings by challenger Ross Barber.
This will be Barber’s third tilt at the mayoral chains, standing in 2013 and in the 2015 by-election.
In 2013 Barber polled fourth out of six candidates, with 605 votes. In last year’s by-election he was excluded at the first iteration of the STV count with 118 firstpreference votes, finishing last out of nine mayoral hopefuls.
Smith’s by-election vote tally was 11,480.
Representing ‘‘team God’’, Barber said he was doing ‘‘what people of the Dominion and team God wanted him to do’’.
Voters will have their first public chance to compare the two during a council-sponsored Meet the Mayoral Candidates session next Tuesday at the Palmerston North Convention Centre from midday.
Massey University local government commentator Christine Cheyne said it was disappointing Smith was not facing some strong challenges.
‘‘My concern is voter turnout, and when people think the incumbent is likely to get a lot of support, they tend to be less interested.’’
In 2007, just over 24,000 voters turned out (46 per cent). In 2010, that dropped to 22,453 (43 per cent), and in 2013 only 20,790 (39 per cent) voted.
Cheyne is pleased though at the number, calibre and diversity of those contesting council seats. The number of nominations for the 15 places is 28, with 12 sitting councillors up for re-election.
Budding candidates Brent Barrett, Gabrielle Bundy-Cooke, Zulfigar Butt, David Chisholm, Darryl Cleland, Gavin Edwards, Martin Egan, James Etuale, Sheryll Hoera, Lorna Johnson, Tony McLaughlan, Karen Naylor, Elizabeth Paine, Joseph Poff, Sue Pugmire, and Abi Symes are up against sitting councillors Susan Baty, Rachel Bowen, Adrian Broad, Vaughan Dennison, Lew Findlay, Leonie Hapeta, Jim Jefferies, Duncan McCann, Billy Meehan, Bruno Petrenas, Aleisha Rutherford and Tangi Utikere.
Voting papers will be mailed out between September 16 and 21, with postal voting until election day on October 8.
Recently-elected mayor Grant Smith will face off against contender Ross Barber for the city’s top job in the upcoming local body elections.