Oamaru’s 150th birthday begins


It’s 150 years since Oamaru officially came into being and sesquicentennial celebrations began last week.

Yesterday Waitaki District Mayor Alec Familton was given a pipe band escort to the Farmers Market where he read the Ordinance and Proclamation which established the Oamaru Town Board in 1862.


Oamaru Life has a fuller report  and much better photos.

Tomorrow a five-day birthday party starts and a variety of other events are planned for the next 12 months.

Local body election race gets dirty


One of the good things about local body elections in smaller districts is that they are usually devoid of personal attacks.

Not so this time.

Someone’s been throwing dirt at Waitaki mayoral aspirant, and sitting deputy mayor, Gary Kircher.

The culprit/s are making the accusations anonmymously which makes it worse.

Four people are seeking the mayoralty but I think it will be a two-horse race between Gary and the sitting mayor, Alec Familton.

I’ve been spectacularly unsuccessful at picking local body results in recent years so am not going to predict the outcome.

The ODT lists all nominees from Waitaki to Invercargill here. 

None of the contests is likely to be as entertaining as the one in Albany where Cameron Slater, AKA Whaleoil, is running.

Race is on for Waitaki mayoralty


Several months ago someone whose name I’ve forgotten and of whom I’ve heard nothing since, announced he was going to stand for Mayor of Waitaki.

A few weeks ago the incumbent, Alec Familton, announced he was seeking re-election.

Now there’s another contender – deputy mayor Gary Kircher has used his blog to announce he plans to seek the mayoralty too.

I might have said it’s difficult for a sitting councillor to defeat a sitting mayor because both could be judged on what the council has – or hasn’t – done.

But three years ago Alec, who was a sitting councillor, defeated then-Mayor Alan McLay.

Then there were big issues, including controversy over the Opera House development and steep rates rises.

It’s been much quieter on the local body front in the past three years which will make it more difficult to mount a challenge.

However, the race has just begun and if a week is a long time in politics, anything might happen in the four months between now and the election.

Conference reflections part 1


Too little sleep and lots of excitement is not  conducive to insightful or incisive posts so I’ll stick to reflections on the weekend’s highlights of  the National Party’s Mainland conference which was held in Oamaru’s beautiful Opera House.

Delegates were welcomed by Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean who was too modest to point out that she had led the project to restore and refurbish the building when she was on the District Council.

Waitaki mayor Alec Familton opened the conference with a lesson in history and politics in which he linked Liberal MP and Minister of Land, Sir John McKenzie, former National Prime Minister Sir John Marshall and our current PM John Key.

He applauded the government for policies which leave more of our money in our own pockets, a sentiment which I, as a ratepayer, heartily approve of in a mayor.

Environment Minister Nick Smith had been going to speak about water but in response to requests from delegates he tackled the more complex and controversial issue of the ETS  (a post on that will follow).

Invercargill MP Eric Roy spoke with knowledge and passion about the goal of a pest-free Stewart Island. It’s a challenge but the environmental and economic rewards would be huge.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s speech included an outline on strategies to help people become independent.

She told of a man who had been unemployed for many years. He had poor literacy one of the consequences of which included lots of fines for driving without a licence because he couldn’t read and write well enough to get one. He was taught to read and write, got his drivers licence and a jog operating a forklift.

When his case manager went to check on him after the first week he liked his boos, was enjoying his work, and delighted to be earning $600 a week. When the case manager went back the following week he wasn’t so happy. He still enjoyed the work but thought the boss had lied to him because he hadn’t got the $600 he’d been promised. The case manager checked his pay slip and pointed out the difference between the $600 he’d been promised and what he got in his hand was tax.

The man mentioned his 19 year old son was looking for work too. When the case manager went back a couple of weeks later she asked if the son, who hadn’t got the job, was on a benefit.

The father said of course not, he wasn’t working to pay taxes to have his son sitting round on the dole.

MPs Katrina Shanks, Michael Woodhouse and Jo Goodhew spoke on leaky homes, ACC and reforms to Aged Care policy respectively then joined Paula for a social policy forum.

The remit requiring freedom campers to have self-contained loos passed unanimously. Matthew Littlewood of the Timaru Herald reports on that here).

Finance Minister Bill English, fresh from the Budget which has gained unprecedented levels of approval, including not only economic and political analysts but fashionistas too, shared some reactions.

Among these were: It’s not great but it’s not Greece and it’s okay not UK.

He also said it was better to tax less the things you want and tax more the things you don’t. that’s why the budget increased tax on consumption and lowered it on income.

Bill said New Zealanders seemed to be more resilient and independent in this recession than in the 1990s. Most people are handling the tough times and we are a more resilient country because we’re standing on our own feet.

Was that a fire alarm?


A siren sounded part way through Mayor Alec Familton’s speech during the dinner which preceded the Oamaru Opera House Gala Showcase.

There was some initial confusion. But it soon became clear it wasn’t part of the enetertainment nor was it a hint the mayor had said enough.

A rehearsal of the pyrotechnics for the opening act had set off the smoke alarms so we all had to file out into the rain and wait for the fire brigade to arrive and declare a false alarm before we could go back in.

Not quite what was expected but given the spectacular nature of the pyrotechnics during the show, we could understand how it had happened.


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