'Fresh thinking' needed in Marlborough - Mayor

Alistair Sowman (file)
Alistair Sowman (file)

After 12 years at the helm, Marlborough Mayor Alistair Sowman is hanging up the chains - but he fears who will take his spot.

"Being Mayor is complex, you must earn the right, the privilege to lead," he says.

"You need to understand how council actually works. People off the street don't understand what is needed. Anyone thinks they can run a district, but they can't."

And he would know. Mr Sowman was only ever planning on serving one term when elected, and never imagined it would span more than a decade.

"It's always easy to say 'I'll do another term' and put your name in the hat, but four [terms] is long enough for any Mayor," he says.

"We need some fresh thinking coming in."

When he spoke to Newshub he sounded chirpy, almost relieved his hectic seven-day week work schedule is coming to an end.

"I think anyone who is serious about becoming Mayor should serve at least one term as a councillor to fully understand how to steer the ship."

But it hasn't been all smooth-sailing for this Marlborough figurehead. He's watched fires devastate the Wither Hills, and Seddon be rocked by earthquakes.

However, he believes the biggest battle has been dealing with councillors who refuse to be team players.

"They're all elected with their own ideas," Mr Sowman says. "They don't have to provide a CV, it's all a popularity contest. A lot of them have egos that you just can't control."

Mr Sowman says it hasn't all been doom and gloom. One of his proudest moments as Mayor was the royal visit by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine, in 2014. He says it "was quite an achievement for little old Blenheim".

Mr Sowman believes one of the biggest challenges facing Marlborough is around the need for more accommodation to support the region's booming wine industry.

He says the council has already zoned land for more housing, but adds there's still a lot of work to be done and strong leadership is needed to make sure plans fall into place.

But that doesn't mean Mr Sowman, who's recovering from surgery, is backing away completely.

"I definitely still have life in me. I am looking to utilise my governance skills in the public health sector, where my passion truly lies," he laughs.

"I know there are calls for fresh blood - but the people of Marlborough should know that I'm not curling up my toes just yet."


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