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Time to examine the merits of term limits?

Could term limits for local councillors may be a way to bring fresh thinking into local government?

This morning's DominionPost covers our research to identify New Zealand’s longest-serving local-body politicians.

New Zealand's longest-serving councillor is on track to notch up half a century in public office – provided voters give him the tick once again this year.

Grey District Council deputy mayor Doug Truman, 76, was first elected to a local authority in 1968, and plans to run for another three-year term in October's local body elections.

His 48 years in office to date make him by far the country's longest-serving councillor, according to information compiled by the Taxpayers' Union.

We are quite surprised by the variations in these figures.  For example, Doug Truman, who sits on the Grey District Council, has served as an elected official for 48 years whereas in the neighbouring Westland District Council, the longest serving Councillor has served for only 7 years.

Whilst we all recognise the need for organisations to have long-standing personnel with institutional knowledge, we think these figures suggest that it is timely to look at implementing term limits at local councils.
There are obviously huge advantages, in name recognition for example, in being an incumbent at local body elections. This means it can be hard for fresh blood to get on a council, even if they are better qualified than an incumbent. We think the Local Government Minister Peseta Sam Lotu-Iiga should consider whether term limits would improve local government decision making.

If you’ve been on a council for 6 terms – 18 years –  and you haven’t yet achieved what you set out to, it seems unlikely that you will do it by staying on Council for another 18 years.

While no one would criticise Mr Truman for his 48 years of service, we can't help but note that when he was first elected to a council in 1968, man hadn't yet landed on the moon.



Name of councillor(s)

Years served

Ashburton District Council Rod Beavan 21
Auckland Council Penny Hulse 24
Bay of Plenty Regional Council John Cronin 18
Buller District Council Graeme Neylon 24
Central Hawke's Bay District Council Mark Williams 16
Central Otago District Council Tony Lepper 27
Christchurch City Council Vicki Buck 26
Clutha District Council Crs Cadogan, Anderson, Cochrane, Vollweiler 15
Dunedin City Council John Bezett 30
Far North District Council Ann Court 12
Gisborne District Council Crs Foon, Burdett, Bauld, Davidson 18
Gore District Council Cliff Bolger 18
Greater Wellington Regional Council Chris Laidlaw and Sandra Greig 18
Grey District Council Doug Truman 48
Hastings District Council  Cynthia Bowers and Lawrence Yule 21
Hauraki District Council John Tregidga 33
Hawke's Bay Regional Council Christine Helen Scott 15
Horizons Regional Council Lindsay Burnell 27
Horowhenua District Council Brendan Duffy 18
Hurunui District Council Winton Dalley, Vince Daley 12
Hutt City Council Cr Cousins 33
Invercargill City Council Neil Boniface 36
Kaikoura District Council John Diver 18
Kapiti Coast District Council Diane Ammundsen 30
Kawerau District Council Malcolm Campbell 21
Mackenzie District Council Evan Williams 12
Manawatu District Council Barbara Cameron 12
Marlborough District Council Graeme Barsanti 27
Masterton District Council Chris Peterson 21
Matamata-Piako District Council Robert McGrail 19
Napier City Council Mark Herbert 18
Nelson City Council Paul Matheson 21
New Plymouth District Council Heather Dodunski 24
Northland Regional Council Craig Brown 15
Opotiki District Council John Forbes 15
Otago Regional Council Louise Croot 27
Otorohanga District Council Deborah Pilkington 11
Palmerston North City Council Jim Jefferies 18
Porirua City Council John Burke 30
Queenstown Lakes District Council Lyal Cocks 12
Rangitikei District Council  Lynne Sheridan 15
Ruapehu District Council Graeme Cosford 30
Selwyn District Council Malcolm Lyall 24
South Taranaki District Council Ross Dunlop 30
South Waikato District Council Neil Sinclair 26
South Wairarapa District Council Vivien Napier 21
Southland District Council Brian Dillon 18
Stratford District Council Robin Vickers and Roger Hignett 24
Taranaki Regional Council David Lean 27
Tararua District Council Crs W H Keltie and D A Roberts 15
Tasman District Council Tim King, Trevor Norriss 18
Taupo District Council  Barry Hickling 12
Tauranga City Council Stuart Crosby 30
Thames-Coromandel District Council Glenn Leach 12
Timaru District Council Richard Lyon 21
Upper Hutt City Council John Gwilliam 12
Waikato District Council Rob Maguire and Graeme Tait 27
Waikato Regional Council Lois Livingston 21
Waimakariri District Council David Ayers 30
Waimate District Council Peter McIlraith 12
Waipa District Council Grahame Webber and Bruce Thomas 15
Wairoa District Council Denise Eaglesome 12
Waitaki District Council Hopkins and Garvan 9
Wellington City Council  Helene Richie 30
West Coast Regional Council  Peter Ewen 12
Westland District Council James Howard Butzbach 7
Whakatane District Council Russell Orr 12
Whanganui District Council Sue Westwood 31
Whangarei District Council Phil Halse 23

Six councils: Carterton District Council; Hamilton City Council; Rotorua District Council; Southland Regional Council; Waitomo District Council; and Western Bay of Plenty District Council, refused to provide the information.

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