Nominations for candidates wanting to stand in this year’s Waikato district close at noon on Friday, August 12. The Raglan Chronicle is running a weekly Q&A with the candidates standing for mayor. First up this week is Brian Cathro, a corporate planner at Waikato District Council whose campaign slogan is ‘Cathro for Change’.
Name: Brian Cathro
Occupation: Corporate Planner (Business) at Waikato District Council
Family: Wife Amanda and daughter Ruby (7)
I was born and raised in Ngaruawahia. My career started as an apprentice fitter at the Horotiu freezing works, alongside my father, Albert, who was a builder and staunch union delegate. From there I entered local government for the first time, with three years at the front desk. This is where my love for our communities began as I served hundreds if not thousands of residents, gaining a deep understanding of the issues and aspirations of our people. I then worked in the energy industry for 15 years. Starting from the bottom, I graduated to roles of team leader, business analyst, business improvement leader and operational leader. I currently work as a corporate planner at Waikato District Council working primarily in business and strategic planning.
Why are you running for mayor?
From a young age, I have been surrounded by grandparents, parents, siblings and friends who have given decades of voluntary service to their respective communities. Caring for the community and others are values that are deeply ingrained in our family. Although I have contributed through various sports clubs and community alcohol services over the years, I find myself with the desire, energy, and skills to lead significant change.
I feel that council requires a transformation. A transformation in the decision-making process and a redistribution of power to our communities is my goal. The role of leader in my view is not to sit there and oversee the status quo, but to actively seek improvement and lead it. I often comment that I could place my 7-year-daughter in front of council, give her a stamp, tell her to stamp anything that comes her way, and 95 per cent of what happens now will still happen. A true leader will add significant value, be courageous, and challenge the status quo.
I want to leave the district better than we find it today – economically, socially and environmentally. I want to leave communities where the old feel safe and the young have a future.
Why would you be a good mayor?
I care for the wellbeing of people – young, old and everyone in between.
The stakes have become much higher in local government and I bring the analytical, strategic and negotiation skills required to ensure our people’s interests are protected at a regional and national level.
I think the fact I come from outside the current council is an advantage, and is essential if any change is going to occur. I am not indoctrinated into the current way of operating or ideologies. Our council has unfortunately suffered fractured relationships and lines appear to have been drawn. I don’t bring that baggage. I will support all councillors.
What style of leadership would you bring to council?
Authentic. There’s no manual on good leadership but I feel it’s essential to be yourself and front up. My message and values will be the same whether I am talking with my wife, mother, voters or the prime minister. It’s also very important that when people vote, they get what was advertised!
I like to include, empower and support people, so I trust others to perform and treat them accordingly. I also believe in a “no secrets” environment, where I share ALL the details. People around you can’t perform with half a story.
What is your vision for the Waikato District, and where does Raglan fit in this?
My vision for our district is that we are a collection of communities that have a high level of self-determination, and they thrive in ways that are meaningful to them.
Raglan does not need to ‘”fit” into anything and it’s certainly not for me to say what shape Raglan should take. I’ve read the first edition of the community-created plan, Raglan Naturally, and I have no doubt Raglan has the maturity to envision an amazing future for all. My role is to support this vision and align council to it.
What do you think the role of community boards should be in local government?
To act responsibly as custodians of their community’s vision and aspirations. To achieve this they will need to be connected in their community to ensure they are speaking for their people. I believe they should have increased delegations for decision-making and allocation of funding (in relation to their community) and intend to change this by the end of the three-year term.
If nothing else, this is one aspect of local government that I would like to transform!
What will you do about Raglan’s ailing sewage system?
In this day and age I am amazed that a land-based system is not being explored. I believe the ocean is Raglan’s No1 asset, and to dump treated sewerage into it (let alone untreated) sounds ridiculous. Rather than seek funding to mend the current system, I would like to sit down with the Raglan community and discuss options, agree a long-term solution, and set this as a priority project.
No community should be expected to tolerate this type of impact on their environment, wellbeing, and reputation.
How will you help Raglan to grow, and at the same time ensure that growth does not put extra pressure on town infrastructure or its residents?
First I’d need to understand how Raglan wishes to grow, to what extent and where. The real solution here is to listen to the community and align council to support this.
Raglan is a tourist town, and numbers swell exponentially in summer. What would your council do to help relieve the pressure on our town’s infrastructure?
I believe Raglan should be positioned as a regional asset in the sense that surrounding councils have an obligation to support it financially. This is no different to us paying Hamilton City significant amounts for our residents to use their libraries.
Regarding the specifics (like parking, rubbish, etc), I see no reason why council couldn’t easily sit down with the community to co-construct or co-deliver solutions. You’ll hear this theme a lot from me!
Raglan rates. Any comments?
Yes, one comment, rates are high. It would be great to uncover a silver bullet, but right now I don’t see one. I’m more than open to a conversation with residents to hear their ideas and find a way forward. The threat of people being faced with financial hardship simply to remain in their hometown is very real, and concerns me.
What do you see as the other main issues for Raglan?
The lack of self-determination over activities, planning, infrastructure, decision-making, etc that Raglan people have in the one place they call home. It’s not unique to Raglan, but Raglan is ready for this as they have shown through the development of Raglan Naturally.
What do you think the council is spending too much money on, and where could this money be better spent?
I don’t believe council is spending excessive amounts of money, and levels of debt appear reasonable given the vast amount of infrastructure council needs to maintain.
I do, however, believe savings can be made by stopping blanket rollout of policy to every community, listening to the needs and delivering fit-for-purpose infrastructure for each community, and working hard to remove bureaucracy.