THE city has spoken and Tim Shadbolt will continue his reign as the longest-serving mayor in New Zealand history.
The incumbent Invercargill Mayor has now held his position for 24 years and he will continue to run until his legs won’t allow him.
“As long as I am strong and healthy, I will keep running, it’s in the hands of the people of the city.
“If I’m run over by a bus tomorrow I’ll still have a smile on my face because I’m very grateful I have been able to do this job for so long.”
Mr Shadbolt said he was feeling relieved after what was one of the toughest election campaigns he had been involved in.
The charismatic councillor faced strong competition from “media-savvy” opponents Karen Arnold and Tom Conroy.
Mr Shadbolt claimed 11,618 of the electoral votes, almost double that of Mr Conroy with 6118 votes.
Mr Shadbolt was working on the role of governance, recommending who should fill what position on the new council.
“We have a very keen bunch of young, new councillors, it will be interesting times ahead.”
With an 8% increase in voter numbers, Mr Shadbolt said Invercargill could claim the title of most democratic city in New Zealand.
He attributed this to the hotly contested mayoral race, robust candidate debates, a mass saturation of advertising and the influence of social media. He said the standard of billboards was another contributor to strong voting numbers.
Mr Shadbolt said despite his victory, the day was tinged with sadness.
“A lot of people who I have worked with for 20 years lost their position.”
With several new councillors, Mr Shadbolt was eager to deal with the issues facing the region.
He said there were a range of issues but in his view the biggest was local government reforms.
“They want us to follow the super city line. If you have huge councils, they just lose touch with the people.”
He said just look at Auckland and their poor voter turnout.
“We had 55% here, people know their councillors, the issues and are far more involved.”
He also wanted to focus on Invercargill’s inner city.
With the internet shopping phenomenon and the big box corporations, the inner city was dying, he said.
After 30 years serving as a mayor, including six years as mayor of Waitemata City, Mr Shadbolt is now considering what his legacy will be.
The most common positive response he gets is that he has “put us on the map”.
“It was actually Colonel Gore Browne who put us on the map in 1856 but I think what they mean is I have increased the profile of the city.”
He said people felt he was approachable, which could be from seeing his artistic side on Dancing With The Stars.
Mr Shadbolt is also a celebrant and has married more than 300 couples.
“I think just being active in the community does help in terms of re-election.”
When first elected, the city had a negative image and was the “fastest declining city in New Zealand and Australia”.
“I think we’ve turned that around and innovative projects like zero fees are largely responsible.”
With the national gymnastics championships held here last month and the world shearing championships coming up, Mr Shadbolt said this perception was changing and the city was beginning to attract some major players.
“I hope I have helped change the image from a dire, rural backwater to being on the cutting edge of innovation and education. We are in good shape, strategically and financially.”
He said Invercargill was fast becoming a dynamic and exciting city.
“I think I have helped win respect for Invercargill.”