Incoming Carterton Mayor and former NZ First deputy leader and Defence Minister Ron Mark. Photo / Ellie Franco / LDR
By Emily Ireland, Local Democracy Reporter
"It's not my first time in this rodeo."
It's a homecoming of sorts for Carterton's new mayor Ron Mark, who makes a return to the position after a successful career in central government.
Mark, who received 2137 votes, previously served as Carterton's mayor from 2010 to 2014 and spent almost 20 years as a Member of Parliament for New Zealand First (1996-2008 and 2014-2020).
He became New Zealand First's deputy leader in 2015 and was later appointed Minister of Defence and Veteran Affairs in 2017, positions that befitted his military career, which spanned nearly 20 years.
Mark said he wanted to return democracy to the council table and said the previous chief executive officer and management "got some things grossly wrong".
"This is a good-looking refresh," he said of his fellow elected members.
"There are some people in there that I voted for - clearly, I'm happy with that.
"There are some people who have returned from the last term, and we'll need to have a sit-down and a conversation about how things will move forward from 2022.
"There will clearly be changes, and my aim is to get people on the same page."
Mark was pleased with his win over the incumbent mayor Greg Lang, who received 1714 votes, but said he had "a few concerns" about the voting process.
"The number of people who didn't receive voting papers, the number of people who did receive papers and didn't vote, and those who have put votes in the mail but they'll arrive in Christchurch too late.
"I just think constitutionally that is open to questioning by every court of law.
"It leaves me wondering why local body elections aren't run the same as central government elections.
"That is the question we are going to ask."
His approach to the role would be no-frills, he said, describing his priorities as "high-quality democracy, better engagement with the community, getting back to the basics and focusing on things that really matter, like infrastructure".
"Not rainbows or unicorns."
He would also not roll over to central government or regional council demands.
"There are battle lines being drawn. If they expect us to roll over and get our tummies tickled, they've got another thing coming."
It was still early days, but Mark had already caught up with South Wairarapa's new mayor and was looking forward to catching up with Masterton's new mayor.
"I'm looking forward to working with the two new mayors in the north and south.
"I'm absolutely convinced that between the three of us, we can work with the things thrown at us by regional and central government."
Lang, who served as Carterton's mayor for a term and was previously a councillor, said it had been "a privilege" to serve the community.
"Congratulations to all the candidates that put themselves forward and to those that were successful.
"My immediate priority is reinvigorating our [wheelwright] business and focusing on what's important to my family."
Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air