Tamahere is to have a contested election for the next councillor to represent the ward on the Waikato District Council for the first time in nine years.
Local man Aksel Jepsen declared his candidacy in early July and when nominations closed yesterday he was joined by Donna Nichols, a one-time Waikato District Council staff member.
The last time Tamahere voters had a choice of candidate was in 2007 when Wally Hayes defeated Andrew Gibson for the seat he has held, uncontested, ever since.
Hayes, who is standing for the mayoralty, will also be up against Nichols in that race along with sitting mayor Allan Sanson, John Deacon, and Brian Cathro.
Full, district-wide nomination list here.
More on this topic: First hat in ring
Both candidates for the Tamahere ward are first time politicians.
Donna Nichols, who describes herself as an entrepreneur, was strategy manager for Waikato District Council from 2007 to 2010.
In that role she initiated the growth strategy and the district’s inputs to the Future Proof strategy as well as undertaking the development of many of the districts structure plans, including working on Tamahere’s, she said.
Nichols who has also worked at Rodney and Kapiti Coast district councils said she had led infrastructure and development projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars along with Youthline and budgeting services.
“My life work has been dedicated to making others’ lives better,” she told Tamahere Forum.
Tamahere needed a very strong, highly knowledgeable advocate to clearly state its case, she said.
“With the development of Peacockes, Ruakura and the Waikato Expressway, Tamahere faces its strongest challenges yet. The reviews of the District Plan and Future Proof and the implementation of the NPS [national policy statement] on urban development will call into question everything considered safe.
“The government needs land developed fast and is leaving no stone unturned. We face the same challenges as Auckland – rising costs and rezoning of lifestyle areas in favour of higher density.”
Nichols, who lives in Tamahere and has a son who is an award-winning hairdresser, said until now most of professional roles had precluded her from having a high public profile or engaging on personally in communities.
She returned to the Waikato three years ago and said that although she had not been a long term resident of Tamahere was passionate about the area “and indeed the whole of the Waikato district.”
“I believe there are vast untapped opportunities here that, with my experience of other district and city councils, I can make life better for all in the district whether they’re a farmer, business owner, lifestyler or townee.”
Nichols, who has a degree in property (development and management,) is currently studying for a masters degree in environmental planning, which she plans to finish this year.
Aksel Jepsen, a Tamahere School board of trustees member who has been the school represent on the Tamahere Community Committee, also said the next years would be critical ones for Tamahere.
“NZTA will be finishing the expressway and other roads, laying the blueprint for how and where the community can grow,” he told Tamahere Forum. “The next three to five years will shape Tamahere for the following 20 to 30 years.”
Jepsen, who has had a successful business career and describes himself now as “time rich”, said he was standing for election because he felt Tamahere needed a strong voice to speak at the council table “and not spend a year listening”.
For more on Aksel Jepsen click here for his website.
The election for Waikato mayor will be a five-way race between incumbent Allan Sanson, departing Tamahere ward councillor Wally Hayes, council staff member Brian Cathro, former councillor John Deacon, who has stood for mayor preivously, and Donna Nichols.
The election will be by postal vote and electors voting documents will be delivered by NZ Post between September 16 and 21.
As well as voting for a mayor and councillors electors will also be voting for representatives on the Waikato Regional Council and Waikato District Health Board.
To make sure votes count they need to be posted by Wednesday, October 5 to be received in time on Saturday, October 8.
Votes can also be hand delivered to a ballot box during the voting period, Friday September 16 to noon Saturday, October 8.
For ballot box locations and more voting details click here for the Vote Waikato website.