Tangi Utikere be­comes deputy mayor

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - JA­NINE RANKIN

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.

PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Tangi Utikere has been ap­pointed Palmer­ston North’s deputy mayor.

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