Former Opportunities Party list candidate Buddy Mikaere has thrown his hat into the ring for the upcoming council by-election, which seeks to fill the vacancy left in the wake of Gail McIntosh's passing.
The 67-year-old made the announcement on Facebook today, promising to ‘bring balance, pragmatism and a fresh vision' to Tauranga City Council.
Speaking to SunLive, Buddy – who's never stood for council before – says he's ‘quite a fan' of the policies TOP put up at the last election.
“It gives me a philosophical base to start with. There's also strong support for TOP in Tauranga and the Bay of Plenty, compared to the rest of the country, so you'd be silly to turn away the chance to appeal to that support.”
He believes the time has come to be ‘more realistic' about the direction the city is going in.
“I appreciate it is really central government's role to look after a lot of the socio-economic stuff. But I've been amazed at the numbers of homeless people on the street and begging. It's something I've never seen in my lifetime until relatively recently. We have to start thinking about what role local government has to play in solving these problems.
“I'm also very interested in the development of Tauranga. Like many people, I'm stunned at the growth of the city, but we don't seem to be addressing the traffic problem. We have big agencies like NZTA building big motorways on the outskirts of the city, while internally we have these issues.”
He also picks out the new developments of Tauriko West and Te Tumu as projects with questionable merit. Rather than spreading out, he's a fan of going up.
“We have a pretty dead CBD most of the time. I think we need to get people into the middle of the city, with intensified, apartment-style living. I think the university will help with that by bringing an influx of students into the city.”
As for that other big issue – the museum – Buddy has no qualms sharing his stance on the matter.
“Ian Taylor came and talked to us about the museum, and the thing that stuck out for me was him saying he couldn't believe we were the fifth biggest city in New Zealand, and we still didn't have a museum,” he says.
“You have to be bold. If you build it, people will come. Councillors have to start making the big calls without thinking about their political future. I don't have a political future yet, so I'm happy to be a ‘yes' vote for the museum.”
Buddy has strong family connections to Tauranga, and lived here from around the age of nine until his late teens, during which time he attended Mount Maunganui College. He moved away and returned to settle permanently in Papamoa in 2011, where he now works as a consultant.