OPOTIKI’S mayor elect Lyn Riesterer says her “empathic” and convincing win in the mayoral contest was something the community needed.
“As the winner, I had twice the number of votes of the nearest contender,” she said.
The election time had led to lots of community debate, which had been a productive time for all.
“We’re seeing Opotiki reigniting its community support,” Ms Riesterer said.
A focus on troubles in the community had resulted in a groundswell of energy surging up.
“People want to make things happen in a positive way,” Ms Riesterer said.
“This has been the result of the talks.”
Ms Riesterer said what she was most proud of was that Opotiki topped the polls in the voting rate. “Several candidates kept asking people to vote, saying you have to be heard,” she said.
“The Coast had its biggest rate ever, at 43.5 per cent.”
There had been enough interest in the local government election for “everybody to be looking at it”.
“I’m so rapt about it,” Ms Riesterer said.
“Opotiki is bucking the trend, doing really well with Waiotahe-Waioeka at 57 per cent and Opotiki at 53.8 per cent voter participation.”
Ms Riesterer said she agreed with newly elected councillor Louis Rapihana that the voter participation still needed to be higher.
“But we have just begun the journey of getting people engaged,” she said.
“Every woman should be proud of the female voting history of New Zealand, it’s part of your civic duty.”
Ms Riesterer pointed out that following the local government election, the three neighbouring councils of Gisborne, Opotiki and Whakatane now all had female mayors and female chief executives.
This was helpful for the co-operation of the three districts, which was already working well.
“There’s increased female representation on all levels of government,” Ms Riesterer said.
“This is a positive change and I am also the first Maori mayor of Opotiki.”
Our new mayor said seeing young people attending the candidates evening had thrilled her and that she had learned a lot during her door-to-door walks in the community.
“The majority of people in Opotiki are focused on moving forward,” she said.
“The naysayers in our community are too loud, but they are a minority.”
The community was now galvanised into working closer together.
Ms Riesterer said she was excited about “the new-look council”.
“It will take us some time to get used to one another, and we will focus on our individual strengths.”
Commenting on the issue of climate change, Ms Riesterer said there was already a lot of work along those lines embedded in the long-term plan.
“We’re making decisions for the next fifty or hundred years, planning for the future,” she said.
“The next three years will be important for central government in terms of how we deal with this.”
Ms Riesterer said the Opotiki district had many smaller settlements that were close to the sea and would be vulnerable to sea-level rises.