Sunday, October 13, 2013

The election results. I'm in! (Final results released on 16/10/13)

Mayor Votes Received
KIRCHER, Gary 3,163
HOPKINS, Jim 2,759

SPITTAL, Eric Robert 1,047

WILSON, David A Independent 715

SMITH, Greg 499

STEAD, Helen 412

BUTCHER, Fliss Independent 144

Oamaru Ward (6 vacancies) Votes Received

HOPKINS, Jim 3,401

PERKINS, Hugh 3,244

TAVENDALE, Melanie 3,084

HOPE, Sally Independent 3,012

GARVAN, Peter Duncan Independent 2,786

WOLLSTEIN, Colin 2,704
STEAD, Helen 2,506

MONKS, Barry 2,231

HORE, Alice 2,128

EDWARDS, Mike 1,498

DORAN, Ray 893

HOWIE, J A (wee Jock) 853



Waihemo Ward (1 vacancy) Votes Received

DENNISON, Kathy 586
WHEELER, Jan 264

WESSELINGH, Stephen 64



Corriedale Ward (2 vacancies) Votes Received

KINGAN, William James 926

PRICE, Sharyn 584

JOYCE, Noel Robert 417

SMITH, Greg 326

VINBRUX, Richard 237

BUTCHER, Fliss Independent 131



Waihemo Community Board (5 vacancies) Votes Received

FOOTE, Geoff 620

ROY, Paul 554

MCGREGOR, Heather 468

CARLYON, Jane 414

BROWN, Ken 371
BEGG, Linda Rose 315

CALEY, Katrina 294

TUCKER, Jan Independent 193

WESSELINGH, Stephen 192



Oamaru Licensing Trust - Ward 2 (1 vacancy) Votes Received

MCMILLAN, Denise 985
JOYCE, Noel Robert 623

MCKENZIE, Malcolm John Independent 303



The voter return was 56.74%, being 8,839 voting papers, excluding special votes.

David Blair

Electoral Officer

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Multicultural Council Mayoral Forum

(As posted on Facebook) Last Saturday night, the final mayoral forum was held, and was hosted by the Multicultural Council. During one of my responses, I talked about the key things I want to achieve over the next three years if elected. These include making progress on getting the council to be more responsive, and more effective with ratepayer money, and I want to push for more jobs by making it easier for businesses to expand and take on new staff as well as being more proactive in attracting more businesses to the district. So far so good...

When Jim Hopkins spoke, he aimed his comments at what I had said, and talked about how the Mayor cannot do anything on his own and that no-one can promise anything as Mayor as they would be acting as a dictator. I was a bit surprised by this as I expected a better understanding of the role from him...

The Mayor can actually do a lot on their own initiative and I will be making the most of that. There are many things where I will definitely work with others (as I have previously), but I will not be constantly seeking council approval to do what I can to attract businesses or work with management to improve the council's ability to serve its ratepayers better. If there is no budget requirement, or if it a budget is already approved, I'll be getting on with it! I expect that Councillors should be fully supportive of these moves anyway, or they shouldn't be there. The majority of candidates have campaigned on improving service & job opportunities, so I'm not expecting too much argument from most.

There are a very small minority who have campaigned that all is well and we don't need to change things. Actually, I believe it is only Mr Hopkins who has campaigned on maintaining the status quo with few changes. The rest who have publicly stated their views, want to see improvements in council services, value for money and greater job opportunities. I won't be settling for less and make no apologies to Mr Hopkins for my intention to get on with these things, with or without him.

The Oamaru Court House

For the past year or so, Oamaru's Courthouse has been closed while an on-going debate has been going on about its structural strength. At the heart of the issue is the Ministry of Courts' contention that it will be $4-5m to get it up to a suitable standard. This compares with local estimates of $3-400k. In the meantime, court hearings have been held at the Opera House which been less than ideal because the general public are put off going into the OH as it often requires them to run a gauntlet of smoking loiterers on the front steps. Whether justified or not, for many people, it's just too intimidating.

So - where do we go from here? We need to put pressure on the Minister and the ministry to get on and make a decision which suits OUR community. The Minister of Courts, Chester Borrows, has already given a commitment that we will keep hearings in Oamaru.

The rest of the community has done its part to retain our heritage buildings. This council, on behalf of the public, has a number of heritage buildings which have been renovated/restored/rejuvenated over the years. The Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust has also done the same for many of its buildings on behalf of the community. Private landlords have been doing it with buildings such as the new Italian restaurant, Steam, the old Omru Blue shop and Rabobank to name a few. But what is central government doing to protect our heritage? We now need a commitment that the Ministry will get their building strengthened and operating again.

I'm prepared to help them further than that if they won't decide to upgrade the building themselves. If elected, I'll be in a position to do what I can to find a solution. One option is to facilitate a possible purchase by a trust (such as the Whitestone Civic Trust) to take over the building for a nominal amount. $1 seems like a win/win! The Ministry would sign a lease-back agreement which specifies that they will move back into the building once it is up to standard and will pay a market rental for a suitably long period of time. This would allow the trust to fundraise and/or borrow money to get the work done and have the guarantee of funding going forward.

This would be a win for all concerned: the community gets one of its important buildings upgraded and keeps its hearings in an appropriate location; the Ministry gets a strengthen building without the liability of doing it up; and the OWCT gets another key building in its portfolio which will have a solid tenant. It's time to get this issue moving forward!

Saturday, September 28, 2013


One of the common themes I have talked about while campaigning is that the Council needs to prioritise better and that if elected, I'll work with the Councillors to go over their priorities and have a rethink about what we need focus on to move the district forward. One of my priorities is to push the Alps2Ocean cycle trail to get it completed. This is a big task but one which many of our communities will benefit from.

For this reason, I spoke at the public forum at Tuesday's council meeting. On the agenda was an item to spend $60,000 on a new neighbourhood playground at the Bluestone Heights subdivision. While wanting to support the concept of neighbourhood playgrounds, I questioned the need to spend this money now when the council could be using it for higher priorities, such as the cycle trail. It could still benefit that neighbourhood if it was used to continue the cycleway from the rail corridor on Saleyards Rd where it currently finishes, past the subdivision and down to the Oamaru Public Gardens where there is already a "destination playground".

To me, that would be a far better use of the money and also provide the safe walking/cycling access that the locals want to allow them to get from their subdivision into town.

I also took the opportunity to compare the approach of council who had been prepared to sign this off, when other communities had been required to fundraise for similar projects. Palmerston, for example, had to fundraise for 2-3 years to put in their playground and skate park facility! This smacks of inequity and all I asked for was that Councillors took note of the different expectations. These are some of the things I hope to address if elected, to ensure we have a district which is treated evenly and people feel they are given a fair go by their council. ( Following my submission, the Council decided to let this agenda item lie on the table to allow them time to get further information. The incoming council will now make the final decision.)

Positive Campaigning

One of my fellow candidates is currently making a big deal out of positive versus negative campaigning, featuring it in his advertising. Apparently we are all supposed to be swallowing the line that the council is doing a great job and that we should keep on that track. I don't buy that for a second and I'm sure the public don't either!

I have a lot of positive ideas about how we can improve our district and how we can improve what council is doing. I want us to be proud of our council again, because I don't think many of us are at the moment.

I will continue to question statements from any candidate which say that rates are being kept affordable and "we are keeping a lid on rates." These increases over the past three years are FOUR times the rate of NZ inflation (Statistics Dept CPI figures). If you got a 0.9% increase in your superannuation or benefit or if this was the figure used for any pay increase you might have received, then the rates increase of 3.9% this year alone has far outstripped the extra you are receiving. If any candidate can't do this basic maths, they shouldn't be there. I'm not pretending there aren't challenges, but don't pretend all is well.

As for wanting the council to be more responsive, we have some great people working there. We also have some, as does every organisation, who can probably do better. The biggest issue is often the system they have to work in so we need to have a serious look at that and get it working for the ratepayers, not for some unseen bureaucracy. As I said, I want us to be proud of our council and we will only get that when we have a council which is seen to be responsive to ratepayer requests, gives good value for money and provides good customer service.

If that's negative, then I make no apology. Rather, I take up the challenge to make something better from what we have, working closely with a varied group of people and interests to achieve a positive result, just as I did on various projects such as the Oamaru Harbour rejuvenation. I will continue to challenge suggestions that all is fine the way it is, and will instead always be seeking continual improvement. And I'm positive that is what our ratepayers want!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

More jobs...

I posted some time ago about getting more jobs in the district by making it easier for businesses to get on with what they do, expand and take on people. I'm also enthusiastic about encouraging new businesses to come to Waitaki and take advantage of our strengths - a good, loyal workforce, relatively cheap commercial property, very good schools and a great lifestyle.

And there is a third option which I have been promoting at the various candidate forums I have been at. This is the possibility of government jobs. As I am saying on the campaign trail - No government department in New Zealand should have a call centre or processing centre in our major cities! Auckland and Christchurch especially, have huge pressure on their infrastructure. Housing is very expensive, it is difficult to get and hold good staff, commercial property is expensive and traffic issues are legendary. Come to a place like Oamaru and those issues disappear! Add in our great lifestyle and school options and we have a real win: win!

My intention as Mayor is to work closely with central government to persuade them that it really makes a huge amount of sense to move these government operations to the regions. With technology, it doesn't matter whether these centres are in downtown Auckland or in Oamaru, the service can be provided effectively and efficiently. Given that these government jobs pay in the vicinity of $45-50,000, a 50 person call centre would bring in an annual wage contribution of $2,500,000 before tax per annum. And that doesn't count all of the trickle-down benefits for other businesses and their staff who would be able to grow their business because of it. This will make a good difference to our economy and it is a source of jobs for our locals and to help bring more people here. This will also help us all as we will have more people to help share the rates burden! It's an opportunity I will be pushing all the way and doing what I can to make this happen.

Friday, September 13, 2013

My Profile in Today's Otago Daily Times

Mayoral profile: Desire for more job chances

Former Waitaki deputy mayor Gary Kircher will be looking for the ideal birthday present next month - being elected Waitaki mayor.
Mr Kircher's 50th birthday is on October 11, the day before election day, October 12.
This will be the second time Mr Kircher has contested the mayoralty, his first attempt in 2010 against incumbent Alex Familton failing. This time, Mr Familton is not standing and Mr Kircher is competing against six other candidates.
Mr Kircher had expected there to be big interest in the mayoralty after Mr Familton announced he was not seeking re-election.
Why are you standing for mayor?
''My vision for the Waitaki district is to be the best district in which to live, work and play. I love our district and everything it offers. The mayoralty gives me the best opportunity to make a positive difference to our district and grow opportunities for everyone.
"I want more job opportunities for our people, better services for our ratepayers and for the council to be a customer-friendly, responsive and efficient organisation we can be proud of. Of all of the candidates, I have the right mix of business and financial knowledge, passion, community involvement and proven ability to work with others to make this a reality.''
Will you be a full-time mayor and why?
''I expect to work 50-plus hours per week to achieve what I want for our district. There will be many public events and meetings which Kerry and I will attend whenever possible. Council and other meetings are also part of the role.
"But I see the most important part of the role is to push our district forward, helping businesses grow and employ more people, getting council focused on the important things rather than the bureaucracy and improving the quality of our services. This is not something to be achieved on a part-time basis if we are serious about moving ahead.''
What position do you think the district is in?
''It's often said that Waitaki has great potential but we have yet to realise that potential. Agriculture is going well with irrigation and we have room for much more growth in the sector across the district. Tourism is growing and providing opportunities - the Alps 2 Ocean cycleway will bring more.
"But we're still too reliant on a few businesses in the district and we must grow this base. I will provide strong leadership to help our businesses grow and to attract new businesses. We have issues with our roads and some other infrastructure which need fixing and we have issues with an ageing population and too few ratepayers.''
What are three issues facing the incoming council and why?
''We need more opportunities for our people of all ages, to keep them here and to help them prosper. If we don't encourage jobs, we'll lose the very people we need.
''Our ageing demographic is a real concern. We have to look after the increasing number of older people we will have. We also need to keep and attract more young people through good jobs and great lifestyles.
''Our council is not running efficiently. Rural roads, rubbish services and regulations are all areas where the council must improve and I am very focused on these issues.''
What would be one thing you would like to have been achieved by the end of your first term, and why?
''I aim to improve job opportunities, council services and value for rates. I will not be satisfied to only achieve one of these things. I have a record of getting things done and I will be working hard to achieve these because all of these areas are critical to the future of our district and our people.''
Gary Kircher
Age: 49.
Occupation: Work broker.
Marital status: Married to Kerry. Children Ryan, Alex, Nicole, Jessica, Richard.
Council experience: Waitaki district councillor (Oamaru) 2001-10; deputy mayor 2007-10; Harbour, hearings, finance, opera house, town centre committee chairman plus others.
Describe yourself in three words: Proactive, conscientious, practical.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Alliance Pukeuri

The meat processing plant at Pukeuri is the district's biggest employer. As you will probably know, it is currently having some problems with its export certificates for lamb going into China. Staff at the company are working frantically to get this sorted as soon as possible, so they can get the plant back on track and get all of the workers back intoi work and earning money. The process of recertifying the plant is not an easy one though, with the Ministry of Primary Industries involved in the audit and compliance role.

Aerial photo of the plant courtesy of Alliance Pukeuri's website
The issue emphasises several things - one is the reliance of the district on the plant as the largest employer of people, with around 950 working at the plant. Secondly, it shows just how easy it is to get something wrong in the modern export world, which demands accountability, traceability and audited processes for all aspects of food export. Thirdly, we get to see how the community gathers around those most in need when they need it. Although it is still relatively early in the piece, the last thing thee workers needed was to be laid off so soon. Around 240 people are affected and a good number have needed assistance. This can be from Work & Income and other agencies. Unfortunately, there are around 25 workers who are not able to access any assistance as they are here on work permits. So they are being put in contact with the local immigrant service and food banks as needed.

Hopefully the plant gets back into action very soon and the workers start earning again. In the meantime, there are some trying times for a good number of our people, along with the effects of a couple of hundred thousand dollars missing from our local economy every week. Best wishes to those affected!

Sunday, August 18, 2013


There's not much that stirs ratepayers' emotions more than the topic of rubbish! In the Waitaki District, the council decided that there were already enough private operators offering rubbish and recycling pick-up services, so it didn't need to. It overturned the previous decision to bring in a 3-bin system to deal with rubbish, recycling and green waste. The council continued to help fund the processing of recycling and of course it operates the landfills in Oamaru and Palmerston, as well as having the cost of monitoring and maintaining numerous landfills around the district. So it is still in the business, just not in the kerbside pick-up part of it.

I believe the council was right in theory with letting the private companies carry on with kerbside pick-ups, but it hasn't worked out so well in practice. There has not been a large take-up with the services, other than the wheelie bin service for rubbish and it's past time we did something about it. We are a bit of a joke when people come to the district from elsewhere and find that we don't have a modern system readily available.

There are a number of solutions available, ranging from just publicising and promoting the services that are available through to taking the service completely back under their control. I think the answer is somewhere in between. The problem with taking the service back completely is that there are many people who will pay more. Often, they will be the ones who are already doing the right thing, as opposed to those who are chucking everything away who will probably pay less than they are at the moment. Having a system where a 3-bin type system is available and even possibly charged through rates may be the option which maximises flexibility for everyone but brings the efficiencies of scale required to keep the cost down.

I would like to see an option where everyone is encouraged to recycle and rubbish is still not too expensive to dispose of responsibly. This could be best done in partnership with the various companies involved in the industry and with the Waitaki Resource Recovery Trust. There are also other groups around the district who I'm sure, would like to be involved. For the customer, the goal will be to have an easy, efficient and relatively low-cost solution to their solid waste. As always, I'm keen to hear your perspectives on this, perhaps including what you are already doing and how much you are paying for it. 


I had this blog when I was on the council and used it to keep people informed of some of the things we were dealing with at the Waitaki District Council, as well as events etc around the community. I liked having a forum to be able to share the information and to give people another opportunity to give their opinions as well.

In 2010 when I finished on Council, I decided to have a break from the blog as well and basically emptied it of the posts I had done previously. Now that I am standing for the mayoralty this year, I am reactivating it and if elected, I intend to keep it running as a vehicle for sharing information and issues with the wider public.

In the meantime, I will be posting regularly on here to let people know what I am up to as well as what my various policies are. The posts prior to this one are all taken from my Facebook campaign page ( ) as I thought it would be useful to have them available here for anyone else to look at. Some may have updates but for the most part, they are as they were posted. If possible, I will add dates to show when they were written.

Feel free to comment and ask questions - this is for you! As usual, please keep within the realms of good taste and be aware that any abusive comments towards anyone will be deleted.