Tangi Utikere becomes deputy mayor
Palmerston North’s new deputy mayor is part Cook Islander Tangi Utikere, believed to be the first non-European deputy mayor the city has had.
Mayor Grant Smith announced the 36-year-old’s appointment at the city council’s inaugural meeting and swearingin on Wednesday night.
He said Utikere was the best person for the job, based on his abilities. The fact he brought some ethnic diversity to the council was a bonus.
Utikere is Palmerston North born and bred. His father is a Cook Islander, and his mother a New Zealander.
Utikere said his Pasifika background was not an attribute he played up himself.
‘‘I’ve always been keen to stand on my track record, of what I have done or not done, not be judged by the electorate because I’m male, or a certain age, on my education or Pasifika background.
‘‘But what it does demonstrate is that we are, as a council, looking to move in a direction that is representative of the community.’’
Utikere was Smith’s closest rival for the mayoralty in the 2015 by-election, and will now be his closest colleague.
Utikere said he had subsequently supported Smith as leader of the city, and had not sought to undermine him.
‘‘We have been able to get on with our jobs and be professional, and I think it demonstrates we both have the best interests of the city at heart.’’
Smith described Utikere as a highly-respected senior councillor who ‘‘rolls up his sleeves’’ and handled the complexities of local government with ease.
Smith’s deputy for the past 20 months, Duncan McCann,
has been given a revamped planning and strategy committee, to chair, which would be responsible for some of the council’s ‘‘meatiest issues’’.
Three re-elected councillors, Susan Baty, Vaughan Dennison and Leonie Hapeta, will continue to chair key committees.
Highest-polling councillor Lew Findlay lost chairmanship of the community development committee to youngest councillor, Aleisha Rutherford.
Adrian Broad has been given a new economic development committee to chair and a new arts, culture and heritage committee will be chaired by second-term councillor Rachel Bowen.
All councillors have been given portfolios.
Tangi Utikere has been appointed Palmerston North’s deputy mayor.