O’Regan ousts veteran mayor
Housing intensification worries Waipā’s new leader
A hardworking and communityfocused approach is what the Waipā District Council’s first female mayor plans for her first term.
Susan O’Regan ousted veteran leader Jim Mylchreest over the weekend to take the district’s mayoral chains.
The Kakepuku ward councillor said she was humbled and overwhelmed by the final result but was no stranger to local government and politics after serving in her council seat for six years.
Although many sitting councillors had been re-elected, O’Regan said it appeared the mayoralty was entering a new phase.
O’Regan is the daughter of the late Katherine O’Regan, a former MP for Waipā and a National Party minister whom she said had influenced her political career greatly. ‘‘It’s in my DNA,’’ she said.
Progress results showed that O’Regan had taken out the mayoralty race well ahead of her predecessor by more than 1000 votes, with a result of 5541 votes to Mylchreest’s 4092.
The key issue she was looking to home in on was housing intensification, which she said had been ‘‘really concerning’’ in terms of how it would affect the district.
The Government’s Three Waters reform wasn’t a focus of O’Regan’s campaign as she felt the council had made its position clear. She said the reforms were likely to go ahead, so her focus would be on what the future would look like for local government.
‘‘Local government is a tricky place to be in right now; we have a lot of challenges ahead of us, economic headwinds,’’ she said.
‘‘But I am just delighted to receive the result that we’d all worked so hard for . . . so [I’m] really happy.’’
O’Regan and her husband, John Hayward, have five children and are dairy farmers. She also has a background in law.
Mylchreest had phoned to congratulate O’Regan on Saturday after the progress results were released, as he was battling Covid19. He was disappointed not to be re-elected as mayor after nine years on the council and more than 40 years in local government.
‘‘I’ve given the vast majority of my working career and the last nine as mayor to the district, so [I’m] obviously really disappointed. But it’s a great district, so hopefully it will go onwards and upwards,’’ Mylchreest said.
He was unsure why he hadn’t been re-elected but sensed it was because there was a national push for change and new leadership as seen on other councils.
There were several projects he still wanted to see come to fruition, such as a new housing project in Kihikihi and the purposebuilt museum, Te Ara Wai. This made leaving difficult.
But he was proud of the growth and infrastructure development that he had been a part of during his time on the council and as mayor.
His time working with O’Regan had been positive, he said, and he didn’t have many words of wisdom other than to state: ‘‘She’s got to set her own path.’’
Mylchreest was looking forward to retirement and spending more time with his wife on their lifestyle block on the outskirts of Te Awamutu.
‘‘At some point you’ve got to hand over the reins, don’t you.’’
In third place for the mayoralty was Chris Woodhams on 2530 votes, and Bernard Westerbaan trailed on 540.
Voter turnout nationwide had been at an all-time low, with only 36.24% of Waipā voters having cast a vote.
Further detail from the progress results stated that in addition to a new mayor, the Waipā District Council would be welcoming two new councillors and three new members to community boards.
Confirmation of the preliminary results were not able to be released on Monday morning upon request but the council said they were expected on Monday afternoon.
On Saturday, the council said all ordinary voting papers had been received and counted, but not all special votes. These were meant to be announced later on Saturday evening or Sunday.
But a spokesperson for the council’s communications team said the progress results for the top positions the on council were ‘‘unlikely to change’’.
The progress results were based upon the counting of about 90% of returned votes. These results did not include some special votes and votes returned on the day elections closed.
The official election results will be released by Thursday, October 13, once all the ordinary and special votes have been counted.