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GARY Tong plans to stand again as Southland District Mayor, saying the council “is in the process of considerable change for the better”.

Last week marked a year out to the next local body elections, which will be held on October 12, 2019.

Mr Tong indicated in 2013 his plan was to see out two terms as mayor unless circumstances made him reconsider. He has since decided he would push for a third term.

“I have unfinished business and a council that is in the process of considerable change for the better. I would like to see that bedded in before I stand down,” he said.

He believed the Southland District Council had made progress over the past two years.

“[We’ve focused] on the strategic thinking by our communities and the combined understanding of all councils of why the Southland Regional Development Agency is important,” he said.

“Our community and business leaders have spoken and councils have listened. I am so looking forward to working alongside iwi and councils to achieve the SoRDS (Southland Regional Development Strategy) visions.”

What could be improved in the coming years at the council?

“Small council-big community thinking will assist communities to be communities…

“Financial and social pressures are being evaluated with central government officials understanding we can’t fight alone.”

The Southland Express asked all Southland District councillors if they planned to stand at next year’s election.

Cr Ebel Kremer said he would seek re-election.

When asked what he believed had been the biggest achievement at council over the past two years, Cr Kremer said he felt it was its long-term strategic plan.

“There are major strategic financial investment challenges, especially within our assets and infrastructure.

“In addition, a more focused approach to our open spaces projects and environmental challenges are identified within our long-term strategic plan.”

Cr Kremer stressed the council now needed to deliver on the long-term plan objectives.

said we will deliver. To genuinely improve council’s relationship and communications with all our communities so that we can work together in a trusting, informed and supportive approach between council and our community members.”

Cr Julie Keast was another to confirm she would seek re-election next year.

Cr Keast pointed to rebranding of the council and also the sealing of the alternative coastal route as significant achievements over the past two years.

She said the council needed to build its communication lines with communities in the coming years.

“We need to continue to look for efficient ways to engage and communicate with ratepayers and our communities.

“We also need to ensure we are meeting the challenge of delivering all of our services in a timely and cost-effective manner,” she said.

Cr Brian Dillon said he “probably will” stand again.

When asked what he thought the council’s biggest achievement was over the past couple of years, he identified the the Southern Scenic Route as a step forward.

“There are lots of small projects, but probably sealing the alternative Southern Scenic Route and also the not-finished representation review,” he said.

In future the council needed to “do projects right, and listen to all the ratepayers not just the noisy ones”, he said.

Cr Neil Paterson intends to stand again.

“I see this council as being successful with a positive attitude towards the future. Council has a huge area of responsibility, much of which goes unnoticed, i.e. infrastructure. This has to be maintained to a high standard,” he said.

“Infrastructure is our key focus but tourism is becoming a large part of this great part of the world we live in. Maybe time is coming for an amalgamation with Gore District Council.”

Cr Darren Frazer was undecided if he would stand again next year.

Other councillors did not respond.

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