Ex-All Black chases votes in Queenstown local body election

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Colourful former All Black Grahame Thorne features among nine non-councillors standing for the six-member Queenstown/Wakatipu ward. 

Thorne, 64, who was belatedly capped this month by the New Zealand Rugby Union, has some political experience. 

He was a National Party Auckland MP for three years in the ’90s, and has had local body experience in both Auckland and Nelson. 

Thorne has also enjoyed a national profile as a TV rugby commentator and sports presenter, once perming his hair. 

He settled in the Wakatipu less than two years ago, buying the Stone House on embattled Christchurch developer Dave Henderson’s Gibbston vineyard estate, after initially renting it. 

If elected, Thorne says he will look into ways of imposing a tourism tax. 

“Ratepayers shouldn’t be required to prop up the tourism industry,” he says. 

Other new candidates for the Queenstown/Wakatipu ward include Kevin Peterson, who owns the Video Ezy chain, architect Preston Stevens, businessman and keen Rotarian Geoff Wilson, immediate past Rotary Club president Trevor Tattersfield, Kingston teacher Annette Dalziel and well-known Arrowtown environmentalist Karen Swaine. 

Two lawyers are also standing for the Queenstown/Wakatipu ward. 

Russell Mawhinney – who’s practised law in town for eight years – is “sick of sitting on the sidelines”. 

His aim is make Queenstown Lakes District Council “more efficient and focus on what council should focus on – not changing the toner cartridge”. 

The 50-year-old former first-class cricketer says “there needs to be more focus on the key issues”. 

Simon Stamers-Smith – a local lawyer for 25 years – says he has a “great, great vision for the district” like his great-great-grandfather, Queenstown’s second mayor, Bendix Hallenstein. 

“My vision is to see that the elected mayor and councillors guide the future of the district, not the QLDC bureaucrats. 

“We need transparent cohesive leadership and realistic spending.” 

Stamers-Smith, 68, unsuccessfully stood in ’89 and ’92. 

Present councillors Mel Gazzard, Cath Gilmour and John Mann are standing again, but long-time councillor Gillian Macleod is standing down. 

Three candidates are standing for the sole Arrowtown seat, which is being vacated by John R. Wilson. 

New candidate Simon Spark says key issues are “council accountability to ratepayers, fiscal responsibility – we’re $100 million in the hole and it’s not going to get any better – and improving sport and recreation facilities”. 

The 39-year-old, who’s been 10 years in Arrowtown, owns a waste management company and is the local rugby club president and chairman of Southland Athletics’ children’s committee. 

Another new Arrowtown candidate is film production worker Ange van der Laan, 45, who’s been 10 years in the Wakatipu. 

“I’m really interested in building a community that values its people, its spaces, its heritage, the environment and protecting our quality of life,” she says. 

The third Arrowtown candidate is Lex Perkins, who’s been a Queenstown/Wakatipu councillor this term. 

The three mayor contenders, none of whom are standing for council seats, are current councillor Vanessa van Uden, former deputy mayor Simon Hayes and roading contractor Michael Scott. 

Mayor Clive Geddes is standing down after nine years in office. 

Nominations for October’s election closed at noon today.