Mayoral Candidate: Karen Pocock

fullsizerender-1Karen Pocock
Age: 61

How does the community know you best?
Probably through my businesses.
I had a very popular cafe on Bluett Rd and especially through
Ruby Dunes.

What do you have to offer the district?
I was brought up here, went to Whakatane High School, got married and had a business here. I have a lot of friends and family here,
and I am very connected to Ngati Awa. In Whakatane,
I was on the Hospice Board for a while, I was also on the Mataatua Sports Board for a while.

Currently I am vice president of the Ohope Tennis Club, vice president of the Ohope Chartered
Club, and I am a very keen golfer. I did spend time out of the district and had successful businesses in both Taupo and Tauranga. I’m into a lot of things in my community. So, all of those things, especially the business things,
have allowed me to become business­minded. I have also had experience within a large organisation after working for Sport Waikato while based in Taupo. The role was fully­funded by Taupo District Council so my office was in the
council building and I had to report regularly to council. I know what it’s like to work within
council and report to council. I also know what it’s like to get in and do a real community job ­ and I had to be good at it to
justify my existence. I was also a councillor in Taupo and I also sat on a few committees and
amassed a skill set I believe will be beneficial for Whakatane. One was the tourism board and
the other a business advisory board. What I offer this district is a lifetime of experiences, not only in business but also in the
community and I think I can use the skills I have learned and that are part of who I am to be a
great voice for the community. My people skills will also go a long way. I’ve moved back here, one because I’m a coastal girl,
but also with the intention that this is it for me. I want to be part of this district’s future.

Why should people vote for you as opposed to the other candidates?
I actually think we’ve got a good selection of candidates this year. I think each of us have some
really good qualities and ideas. I think there are also so many candidates because people want
change and I think they will look at me and see me as a new face, with a new approach and
with ability. I think people see me as a successful person. I also really want to emphasize my
ability to work with people and especially iwi, to achieve great outcomes.

What is your vision for the Eastern Bay / how do we achieve this?
My vision is not for Karen and her lifetime, it’s for my children and grandchildren. I think that’s
what we’ve got to be doing now so that all the things we want here are going to be here. I don’t
see us as a Surfer’s Paradise­type place, I see us being a really cool town to come to without
compromising what we’ve got here. Having said that, I want us to really attract new business
because population isn’t necessarily the growth we want, it’s the economic growth. But it needs
to be smart growth, It needs to be beneficial ­ not just growth. We will achieve this by council having really, really good partnerships, especially with any business or organisation looking to do something here. Iwi for instance. I can’t stress how
important it is for council to have partnerships with iwi. I have been to iwi and told them I am
standing for Mayor and how I believe in the importance of partnerships with all of the region’s
iwi. We have to make sure we are enabling them in their endeavours.

What are we currently doing right / what are we doing wrong?
That’s quite a hard one for me. I’ve looked at the LTP and the Annual Plan and I think it’s very
difficult for council to make a Long Term Plan and stick to it ­ which is why it’s looked at all the
time. Most long­term plans change but there are some really good things in our Long Term
Plan. One of the good things is the council, in its consultation process, made big efforts to reduce the
rates percentage. I haven’t heard what council staff have to say, but I really feel there is a lot of frustration,
particularly in things like the building industry, and the length of time it’s taking for council to
carry out their checks when people are building. I have spoken to a plumber who told me some builders are having to wait 2 to 3 weeks for council staff to come in and do checks. In that time they can’t continue until it’s done but, in the
meantime, they have to pay their staff. I don’t know how we’re going to fix that but I’m adamant
we can do better. I also think council needs to take a firm ‘buy local’ stance. While I understand the best price is
good for the ratepayer, I think if local contractors and suppliers were given the opportunity to
sharpen their pencils a little to ensure the money was spent regionally, it would be a win­win
and ultimately be more beneficial to the ratepayer.

Where do you think we should be in ten years ­ a tourist or agriculture­based economy?
In our district we’ve got room for both. We have our huge Plains with successful horticulture and
agriculture businesses but we have a fantastic coastline and beautiful bush areas. I definitely
think there’s room for both.

How should we be co­operating with our neighbouring districts?
I would certainly nurture relationships with the councils and particularly the Mayor’s, if I was
Mayor. I see both Kawerau and Opotiki as being beneficial to the district. I don’t know a lot
about ToiEDA but I can only see that as a good thing. There’s a possibility I could change my
mind about that when I learn more ­ those are questions I’d be asking, I’d definitely want to
know more. I think there are a lot of people in the district confused as to the roles of ToiEDA,
Grow Whakatane and BOPLASS, and perhaps we need to make who these organisations and
what they do, and how much money is allocated to each, more transparent to the ratepayer.
People also need to know how the money each receives is spent. I have to say that, as a local
business owner, I’ve never had any written material nor any visits, from any of these groups or
the local Chamber of Commerce. It would be good to marry everything together. We could aim
for some unity between groups so we are all working together for a better future for the district.

Do we have anything to learn from Tauranga and Rotorua?
It’s interesting you ask that. When I hear about how difficult the regulatory process is here, I’ve
been told Tauranga Council has a wonderful reputation with developers and builders. I’d expect
this to be the case with all of the progress there. I’ve heard Tauranga Council staff go out of
their way to ensure they get things done as quickly and as efficiently as possible ­ maybe the
Whakatane District Council can learn from that. Secondly I think growth will accelerate in our
region because of things like the Eastern Arterial Link ­ it’s made Whakatane so much more
accessible and accessible quickly. The other thing we can perhaps learn from these two cities is
about attracting a major hotel to Whakatane. Where the council can help is to ensure the
positioning of a hotel is appropriate. We don’t have any tourist buses coming to Whakatane
because there’s nowhere to stay.

Where do you stand on a Piripai development?
This could take a while. Firstly, I don’t think Piripai is a done deal yet and I don’t believe enough
thought has been put into the whole scenario. I, for one, do not think it is a good site for a
retirement village or a lifestyle village.
And that’s because out at Coastlands, there’s not even a dairy. So the people living there have
to come out of their village, come out of Keepa Rd and into the traffic congestion, and then drive
to Kope or Whakatane. I was talking to a lady who agreed; she is an elderly lady who had
recently had a stroke and is not able to drive for the next three months She asked me how she
would get to anywhere. Iwi are still not convinced it’s the right place ­ there are still a lot of iwi issues that need to be
dealt with. I also read something about the owner of the Whakatane Campground in McGarvey Rd
approaching council with a proposal to build villas there and who was told no as the zoning is
not right. That’s what council does ­ it has the ability to change zoning.
Personally I think it is a much better site ­ there is a gorgeous walkway close by, a beautiful park
and its close to town. I also wonder if Rugby Park would be a better spot and the rugby grounds moved out to Piripai
and a recreational area developed. Perhaps this would fit in better with iwi as well. The Piripai
problem needs to be completely re­looked at.And  I also think all the confidentiality surrounding Piripai needs to be opened up. The same  could be said for council’s Seascape development. I know there are certain things that have to
be confidential at the time, but everything should come out in the end.

Where do you stand on a second bridge?
We definitely do need a second bridge. Access to Whakatane is just a joke. They’ve (council)
known about population growth for years but are only starting discussions with NZTA next year ­
discussions should have started years ago. And, if we do a retirement/lifestyle development and
it is financially successful, why can’t we propose a partnership with NZTA and put some money
up ourselves ­ not wait for it to be nationally funded. They could be open to something like that
and we could get a bridge sooner.

Do you believe we have a housing shortage ­ both low cost and retirement? How do we
solve this?
We definitely have a housing problem. When we talk about retirement, I’m really concerned
about the amount of older people we are leaving here and going to Papamoa, Mount
Maunganui and Tauranga, because we don’t have anything to accommodate them. That’s why
it’s so important. I don’t know how we solve this altogether but council definitely needs to look at
available land and rezoning land to help. I’m a real homework person and I’m also not afraid to
ask questions when I need to. There are solutions to all of the issues we have in Whakatane. I
believe it’s a matter of working collaboratively with council, community and interested parties to
come up with the best ones.

Is council red tape hindering economic growth?
I’ve already talked about the concerns that have been expressed to me about the time it takes
for council staff to do things. I do believe there are some staff who have been there such a long
time and it is a matter of what was, is. We perhaps need to ensure things are efficient and
expedient within council.

Should Council look at external funding sources to help economic growth?
That’s what I meant when I said we need to create partnerships for smart growth. We need to
have groups targeting specific things like events and tourism ideas, things to bring people here.

Council does rely too heavily on rates to finance expenditure ­ whatever we can do to bring  more money into the area has to be given serious consideration. Is it time for a change or are we better to stick with what we know. Change is good. It’s about being real. There have been so many people who have come into
the store to talk about what is good and what is not good. And also, a lot of younger members of
the community have been telling me what is important to them. But the common theme is that it
is time for change

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