Mayor re­jects party pol­i­tics

The Tribune (NZ) - - YOUR PAPER, YOUR PLACE - JA­NINE RANKIN

Palmer­ston North mayor Grant Smith is en­cour­ag­ing vot­ers to keep party pol­i­tics out of the city coun­cil.

Smith used part of his speak­ing time at last Tues­day’s coun­cil­hosted lunchtime event to meet the may­oral can­di­dates to ask peo­ple to ‘‘vote wisely’’.

The mayor of 18 months faces just one chal­lenger, a for­mer pig farmer with con­vic­tions for as­sault­ing chil­dren, Ross Bar­ber, who is stand­ing for ‘‘Team God’’.

Bar­ber claimed to be God, to be em­peror and land lord, and said he could print money. He ac­cused Smith of be­ing mad, and coun­cil staff and var­i­ous in­sti­tu­tions of be­ing cor­rupt and dis­gust­ing.

Smith used most of his time to out­line his achieve­ments as mayor.

His catch cry was ‘‘a head for busi­ness, a heart for the com­mu­nity and pas­sion for Palmer­ston North’’.

‘‘I have led a once-di­vided coun­cil into a co­he­sive team,’’ he said.

Smith turned at­ten­tion to the coun­cil­lor elec­tion, where 28 can­di­dates are stand­ing for 15 seats, with three sit­ting coun­cil­lors re­tir­ing.

The Greens have put for­ward can­di­date Brent Bar­rett, while Labour has en­dorsed Zul­fiqar Butt, David Chisholm, Sh­eryll Ho­era and Lorna John­son.

Smith was wor­ried party pol­i­tics would cause di­vi­sions, point­ing to the ex­pe­ri­ence of Auck­land, Christchurch and Welling­ton coun­cils.

‘‘I’m not stand­ing on any po­lit­i­cal party card and am very much cen­tre in my val­ues and views,’’ he said.

‘‘I do ask res­i­dents to vote wisely.’’

Smith said Palmer­ston North had no de­sire for cen­tral gov­ern­ment ‘‘party-led med­dling’’ in lo­cal gov­ern­ment, and it had not been ev­i­dent on the city coun­cil for more than 30 years.

‘‘I urge vot­ers to look at can­di­dates’ personal at­tributes, what they sup­port, their track record, and whether they are in­de­pen­dent or not, and then, at who would gen­uinely be put­ting our city first.’’

The party can­di­dates have hit back, claim­ing to be trans­par­ent, not di­vi­sive.

Bar­rett said it was open and hon­est to let peo­ple know his val­ues.

And Ho­era said party sup­port helped a di­verse range of peo­ple who could not af­ford to cam­paign alone to con­tem­plate stand­ing for coun­cil.

PHOTO: DAVID UN­WIN/FAIR­FAX NZ

Palmer­ston North mayor Grant Smith and chal­lenger Ross Bar­ber spoke to about 50 peo­ple.

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