INVERCARGILL deputy mayor Rebecca Amundsen is taking on long-time mayor Sir Tim Shadbolt for the city’s top job in this year’s local body elections.
She announced her run for the Invercargill mayoralty on Tuesday.
Ms Amundsen said she had completed her apprenticeship as a councillor over the past six years and had the experience needed.
“I had always intended to run for the mayor one day. There was no reason to wait.
“I have always thought of myself as a good leader and a good leader wants to lead.”
Mr Shadbolt is New Zealand’s longest serving mayor. He had served two terms as mayor of Waitemata City and eight terms as mayor of Invercargill. He confirmed he would be seeking a ninth term in the October elections.
At present, Ms Amundsen is the only candidate standing against Mr Shadbolt. First-term councillor Toni Biddle announced her intention to stand for the mayoralty in December, but later withdrew from the race.
Ms Amundsen said her approach to the job would be different from Mr Shadbolt’s.
“My focus is very much around the community engagement and trying to bring that kind of change into the way the council operates, which has to be done from the top down in the governance sense, whereas Tim came into the council at a different time.
“The skills needed at that time were around promoting Invercargill and putting it on the map. I don’t have that ability or skills and I wouldn’t try to do that… it wouldn’t be my focus.”
Ms Amundsen (41) is the mother of two boys, aged 16 and 22.
She moved from Oamaru to Invercargill at the age of 23 so her now husband, Phil Orr could study at the Southern Institute of Technology.
Ms Amundsen said she became interested in local government after her involvement with the Glengarry Rejuvenation Project in 2010-11.
The group approached the council with ideas of how to improve the Glengarry Shopping Centre, which was largely council-owned, and found it difficult to work with the council at that time, she said.
“I thought – it shouldn’t be this hard for communities and council to do these things together.”
The relationship between council and the community had since improved, but community engagement was one area in which the council could still do better, she said.
“The council needs to be more creative in how it engages with the community. It needs to be a fundamental philosophy in how it does its business.”
Ms Amundsen was involved in numerous community organisations and projects in the city, including the Glengarry Fire and Light Festival, Kind Women, the Heritage Ball, Dan Davin Literary Foundation and the Southland Oral History Project.
Should she become mayor, Ms Amundsen said her involvement would continue.
“They are all the things that make me who I am.”
Among the key challenges facing the council now and into the future was the lack of housing, particularly social and affordable housing, she said.
“The council’s role was not necessarily as a provider of housing, but as an enabler.”
Managing the impact of significant developments planned for the city, including the ILT hotel and HWCP retail complex, would also be a key challenge for council, she said.