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Changing guard....Timaru's mayor-elect Nigel Bowen checks out the mayoral chains. The new council's inaugural meeting will be on October 29. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

by Chris Tobin

The Timaru district should make further attempts to gain money through the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF), Timaru mayor-elect Nigel Bowen says.

“What I’d like to do is open up the opportunities for the PGF. It’s good with the port but I’m open if the community has got some great ideas.”

PrimePort Timaru has sought $100million from the PGF to build a new wharf, which has been the only major application made from this district.

Mr Bowen said he thought there could be opportunities for things such as cycleways linking Timaru and Geraldine with the Mackenzie district.

His only reservation was that the PGF had appeared to move away from giving grants to providing loans.

He said the new council would have to strike a balance between spending on infrastructure, which was becoming more pressing, and the levels of rates.

The $9.8million Pareora-Timaru water pipeline renewal was deferred in the 2019-20 annual plan but it had to go ahead, he said.

“Some of it [the pipeline] dates back to the 1930s and 1940s. I’ve said before that councils in the past have been seeking re-election and kept rates down but we’ll be judged on what we do.

“It’s quite a high priority,” he said.

Again, he thought central government should play a role.

“Central government has to intervene at some point. They currently have a surplus of $7.5billion.”

Mr Bowen (42) won a convincing victory in Saturday’s local body elections, receiving 8657 votes in the provisional results, well clear of retired tractor company owner Gordon Handy (4934 votes) and the Timaru mayor from 2004 to 2013, Janie Annear (4049). Next was Shane Wilson (324) followed by Kari (AJ) Mohoao (189).

The result marked a rapid rise for Mr Bowen, a Timaru business owner, after he was first elected to the council two years ago in a by-election.

“Being in business and being open to the public, and with rugby and South Canterbury football I had a lot of community touching points,” Mr Bowen said on why he thought he had won so decisively.

Mr Bowen was born and raised in Timaru, and attended Roncalli College.

He and his wife Jane have two daughters, Melah (13) and Nieve (9).

He worked for Lion Breweries and returned to Timaru 15 years ago to take over the Speight’s Ale House in the Landing Services Building, which he has owned and operated since then together with Street Food Kitchen.

The future of the CBD was an important priority for him, he said. It was a difficult issue given the huge shift in retail to online shopping and ageing buildings that required earthquake strengthening.

“We haven’t spent much in the central city for a long time – we need to ask the community what they want.”

He believed the CBD had to become more “age-friendly” with such things as better tiles and kerbing and it had to be made more accessible for those with disabilities.

He also thought the Theatre Royal Heritage Facility “has to happen”.

“I see it going forward.”

Mr Bowen said he would meet each of the newly elected councillors and announce his selection for deputy mayor on October 31.

He expressed his good wishes to re-elected councillor Steve Wills, who suffered a stroke last Friday.

“He’ll play a key part on council and has great support. We’re looking forward to having him back on deck,” Mr Bowen said.