Hamilton deputy mayor Geoff Taylor to challenge mayor for top job at upcoming election

While local elections are still five months away, the fight for the top job in Hamilton is heating up with the current mayor being challenged by her deputy.

Hamilton's deputy mayor Geoff Taylor is challenging the current mayor for the top job in the upcoming local elections.

Hamilton deputy mayor Geoff Taylor is challenging the current mayor for the top job in the upcoming local elections. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

First-term mayor, Paula Southgate is seeking another three years, but deputy mayor Geoff Taylor wants the mayoral chains for himself.

He is aiming to gauge just what the public think and want in their city by hosting community barbecues.

Taylor is in his second term on council and was appointed deputy mayor after the last election.

He has a way of gauging whether council decisions are the right ones by cooking sausages and talking to real people.

He is using what he calls a common sense approach.

”If I took an idea to a barbecue with my mates, would they take me seriously or would they laugh at me and walk away shaking their heads? And I call it the common sense barbecue test. It’s almost become a barometer of, is this a stupid idea or is it good thinking?”

From this was born his idea of community barbecues.

”Having these weekly barbecues, a free sausage sizzle is a great way to just meet people in a non-threatening way and to hear what they think common sense is.”

As mayor, Paula Southgate said she was very much in touch with the community.

”I’m out and about. It would be a rare thing to have a full weekend at home. It’s almost a never thing to have evenings at the week at home. I am usually out and about. I go to everything. I have my feet in the grassroots of our community. If I am invited to an event and if I can fit it in to my calendar, I go.”

Hamilton mayoral candidate Paula Southgate

Paula Southgate says there are a number of key things she wants to achieve in a second term as mayor and affordable housing is a key issue. Photo: RNZ / Andrew McRae

Southgate is comfortable, to a point, with her deputy coveting her job.

“No reason why he shouldn’t continue [as deputy mayor]. It makes things a little bit tricky because he’s out and about electioneering and I don’t know always where he is, but it’s completely his right, we have just got to be professional.”

Taylor said it was a matter of carrying on and doing the job as deputy mayor as best he can.

“But then recognising at campaign that we do our thing then. So there are one or two things that I am going to pull back from because it is just awkward.”

He said it had never occurred to him to stand down as deputy mayor.

“I think we should be able to do the job. We should be both professional enough, and I think we are, that we can just carry on doing the job in the meantime.”

Southgate said there were a number of key things she wanted to achieve in a second term as mayor.

A priority is affordable housing.

“At the end of the day with 1500 people still in emergency housing and other people waiting to get into their first home, we are not there yet and I really want to stay on that journey and everyone deserves a good home. Everyone deserves a dry, warm roof over their head.”

She said it was hard to say what the number one issue would be for voters come October.

“I think safety is of critical importance in Hamilton and that is why I set up the safer city taskforce group in partnership with police to understand how council can play its part.”

She acknowledged there were a number of contentious issues coming out of central government, such as Three Waters.

Taylor was pushing for a city with easy transport options, a revitalised CBD and some TLC given to the suburbs.

“My immediate goal is transforming part of the central city to create a river precinct,” he said.

He has a vision for change in the way the city is run.

” think this council has stalled in this term. We have done an awful lot of talking. We have made very few decisions. We have created plans and strategies but we haven’t done anything. I find it very hard to think of any projects over the last couple of years that are a result of this council’s thinking. They have come from the last council.”

Taylor believed the time was right for him to become mayor because he was ambitious for the city.

“I can offer a fresh injection of energy and confidence in the city.”

Southgate said she had had 24-years of local government experience and was keen to continue as mayor.

“I am focusing on what I offer and that is a very inclusive team building approach and he will have a different approach. Fair enough, that is democracy.

“It is a great job.”

It is very likely other candidates will come forward nearer to October’s election date.

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