Name: Tom Conroy
Occupation: Managing director and broadcaster
Marital Status: Divorced
Council experience: I have been contractor to the Invercargill City Council, producing television programmes for them for over a decade.
Describe yourself in three words: Energetic, trustworthy, achiever
Mr Conroy was born in Kawerau. His father was a draughtsman with the Ministry of Works and the family lived in many places while his father was involved in hydro power and other infrastructure projects.
He arrived in Invercargill in 1996 on a six-month work experience assignment for Mobil Oil, where he was a manager on a fast-track to a senior role. Mr Conroy said he and his then wife found they loved Invercargill and its activities and lifestyle and “made a conscious choice” to establish roots in the city.
He took a job as a presenter on the fledgling Mercury Television regional station based in Invercargill, later becoming manager. In 2000 he was told by the owners on a Monday if the station didn’t have new owners by Friday it would close. He negotiated a deal with Sky for the station to become a “boutique national station”, and bought the company.
In April last year the broadcasting arm was closed to concentrate solely on production.
Why are you standing for mayor? My driver was a genuine concern over the impact of external forces on the city’s economy and the need to mitigate any damage and encourage diversity. Also the downturn in dairy prices, the ongoing review of the viability of the Tiwai aluminium smelter, the slowing of population growth, and the frightening decay of the CBD. These issues need addressing in a business-like manner and I know I have the tools and the business experience to lead such an approach.
Will you be a full-time mayor and why? I will work every hour it takes to fulfil the duties of mayor. It is the same philosophy I have always used in my business life – you just work until the job is done. Will I have some other interests outside the mayoralty? Yes. To maintain my national profile I will do some television work, but certainly not to the extent that I do today. It will be a very small percentage of my hours each week.
What position do you think the city is in? I think we are extremely vulnerable, particularly to the vagaries of outside economics, and we are lagging behind other progressive cities to do something about it. We’re competing [against them] for people and industries.
What are three issues facing the incoming council, and why? I think the Southland Regional Development Strategy (SoRDS) to attract 10,000 more people to Southland by 2025 is absolutely imperative. One of issues the incoming council has to address is to be fully supportive of SoRDS. We’ve got to have one combined, unified approach – we can’t have people going out on tangents. We’ve got to say “look, we’ve set SoRDS up and we’ve got to give it 100% of our support, and we’ve got to implement the reccomendations and give them a go”.
We need to forget about what’s happened in the past. There is no protection of territory here. We must say “what is in the best interests of Invercargill and Southland”, and do it.
I would like to run the council more like a business rather than a ceremonial, rubber-stamping process that sometimes it can be. How would I spend the money if it was my personal cash? Is that a sensible use of resource? Every cent counts and it has to be used most effectively.
The third issue is we need to win back the confidence of ratepayers. This will be achieved by delivering outcomes – the SoRDS outcomes and others.
What would be one thing you would like to have achieved by the end of your term, and why? I’m entering this as a two-term mayor. I’m there to make a difference and it will take two terms. The revitalisation of the CBD is right up there at the top. That is something people can get a lot of positivity from, and that emanates out into the community. It’s the first observation of my visitors – where are the people in the CBD? Where are the shops? Where are the activities in this town? It’s never too late [for revitalisation], but it is of immediate concern. I see SoRDS as not our last chance, but our best chance of a quick recovery. If we don’t get in behind SoRDS and it doesn’t work we are in serious trouble.