Gary Tong opts out of Invercargill mayoral race

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong presents the Community Service Award to Peter King with Mrs Laureen King.

Months after announcing his candidacy for the mayoralty in Invercargill, Southland District Mayor Gary Tong has made a U-turn.

Speaking to the Southland Express today, he confirmed he would instead stand for re-election as mayor for the Southland District Council in October’s local body election.

Mr Tong said the decision was not taken lightly, but as his council and the region was facing such a critical time with the Three Waters, Local Government and Resource Management Act proposed reforms, he felt he needed to stay where he was.

“It is with genuine sadness that I made this decision because I received a lot of support from Invercargill ratepayers.

“However, at this moment – knowing all the details and background of things which are happening in local and central government – I believe I still have a lot to do for Southland.

“My heart is with Southland.”

Mr Tong said he informed his colleagues and aspiring candidates of his decision yesterday.

He said he held great respect for all of them, but believed this was a time for continuity.

“With the benefit of experience and hindsight I don’t believe this is a time for SDC to be inducting a new mayor to take on the leadership and responsibility of ensuring nothing is missed.

“I am an experienced mayor, with extensive knowledge of what is happening, what needs to happen and what is going to happen; therefore the transition post the elections will be short and I will hit the ground running.”