By ROBYN BRISTOW and DAVID HILL
Mayoral contests in all three North Canterbury district councils will add spice to local government elections in September.
Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray and Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley have joined Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers in announcing their retirement from local government at the end of this term.
Mr Dalley will draw the curtain on about 26 years of involvement with the Hurunui District Council, nine of them as mayor, six as a councillor and the rest as a member of his local Waikari community ward committee.
Mr Gray is retiring after nine years (three terms) as mayor, while David Ayers, who announced his retirement last year, spent 30 years as a councillor or mayor, plus six years in the early 2000s chairing the council’s Rangiora Ward Advisory Board.
Mr Dalley, who made his announcement at the Hawarden A&P Show last Saturday, says the time is right to go.
He stood last term because the district was gripped by drought. He was chairman of the drought committee and was trying to keep the community in a good space.
Three weeks after the election, the district was faced with another big challenge when the November 2016 earthquake hit Waiau and surrounding areas.
“You don’t walk out on a community when things are not good,” he says.
This time, though, there was no compelling reason to remain.
“It is time to move on and leave it to other people who have a different contribution to make, to stand,” Mr Dalley says.
He says he has no specific plans, but as one door shuts another always opens, “and when it does, you would be silly not to walk through”.
“Personally, I wouldn’t mind something valuable to do. I don’t want to stagnate. I have enjoyed the stimulation and love challenges,” he says.
Mr Gray says nine years is a long time at the top.
“I never thought I would do nine years, but it has been a real privilege to serve the community. But I think 12 years is too long and I’m turning 67 this year. Everything has its time.”
Mr Gray says the last three years has been the most challenging, following the
November 2016 quake.
“It’s not an ideal year to resign, but we are far enough through the recovery and it’s time to move on. I’m pleased with where the town is at and the growth that is happening, so it’s a good time for change.”
When the quake struck, the mayor and councillors were on a council retreat at St Arnaud to do some forward planning.
They tried to drive home along damaged roads, but soon realised a road trip was futile.
They gave up at Rita Farm, 4km south of the Clarence.
Unable to phone for help as cellphone towers had collapsed, they managed to wave down a helicopter, returning to Kaikoura at 7am.
Mr Gray says he has yet to decide what he will do next, but it is sure to involve cycling and overseas travel.
“I will definitely stay local. I don’t know what I will do, but I will continue to work on the local bike trails.
“There’s plenty for me to do in Kaikoura, so it will probably be more of the same.”
He is unsure who will stand to replace him. “No doubt there will be plenty of interest.”
Mr Ayers announced his intention to stand down from the Waimakariri mayoralty a year ago. He said he and his wife Marilyn wanted to step back rather than commit to a further three years. Both are in their early 70s.