He’s certainly going to try hard to be. Last Sunday we had breakfast with Gwynn at the Front Room on Waikanae Beach to get a handle on his ambitions, ability to relate to people and grasp of Kapiti issues — he impresses on all counts.
The immediate thing you notice is that he’s significantly younger than the incumbent, and with a wife and two children aged 2 and 6 months, he comes into the young familyman category. Gwynn lives in Paraparaumu Beach. He is originally from Wellington, but his wife has a strong Kapiti Coast lineage.
He is a member of the Kapiti Economic Development Association and this is something he’s clearly enthusiastic about. He doesn’t want Kapiti to simply be a commuter suburban area of Wellington, which it could well become once the Transmission Gully freeway is opened in late 2020 — or a coffee stop for travelers as KCDC Chief Executive Wayne Maxwell sees it — jobs need to be created locally for people. In the last few years jobs have come mostly from road and house construction which won’t last.
Presently he is a marketing /PR guy for Beef + Lamb New Zealand and for 3 years he was a media consultant for Prime Ministers John Key and Bill English. That may be (and probably is) a minus for those who support other political parties, but he makes clear that he is very much an independent and national level politics don’t apply much in Kapiti anyway. Already, on the Social Housing issue he’s made clear that he supports council provided accommodation for those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.
He’s aware that the incumbent elected mayor always has the inside running in campaigns simply because of all the publicity he/she gets as the mayor, and in Guru’s case the two local freebies are more than friendly towards the council, undoubtedly because of the $200,000 a year in advertising they get from it — they can’t bite the hand that feeds them. Still, on the the other hand, the council is much hated by ratepayers and the mood to “throw out the present lot” is strong.
The unilateral, top down nature of the council’s behaviour and culture is something he wants to change drastically.
It might be asked if being the mayor of Kapiti is a job anyone would really want, following a decade of bad council decisions and dreadful management, with maxed-out credit lines and overburdened ratepayers the result: funding for any new initiatives is more than tight. He thinks that the central government is where the next council will have to go.
Our meeting was an introduction: later in the year we will meet up with Gywnn again to cover specifics of his intentions as mayor.