New Mayor of Kaipara Craig Jepson on his election and what he’ll do in his first 100 days. Video / NZ Herald
New Kaipara Mayor Craig Jepson says he has to get his feet under the table and listen and learn in the first few months of his new role.
The concrete businessman from Mangawhai won the
Kaipara mayoralty with 3689 votes, according to progressive results, and was humbled by the support of his constituents.
After running unsuccessfully for the Kaipara District Council (KDC) three times, Jepson got the top job in this year’s election and plans some major changes – particularly in council expenditure, planning processes and “top-heavy” leadership.
“I can feel the frustrations people have trying to get their projects over the line. What should be a simple process becomes very difficult nowadays,” Jepson said.
He would look “at every possible way to reduce council costs”.
Jepson grew up on a Waikato sheep farm and spent his youth in the woolshed, which he said he enjoyed until his family moved into town.
After three years at teachers’ college, Jepson realised he wasn’t cut out to be a teacher and instead moved to Kerikeri and joined his father as a deckie on a game fishing boat.
“I’ve always enjoyed working physically,” Jepson said, who also used to play rugby for Northland.
He eventually moved into the concreting business and, at 28, undertook his first subdivision.
After moving to Mangawhai 22 years ago, Jepson set up his own concreting business, Kauri Coast Concrete, helping develop more than 100 sections.
Jepson has a 33-year-old daughter who lives in Auckland and six “honorary” grandchildren through his partner, Jeanette Reid, which keep them busy.
His 87-year-old mother lives in Paihia, “still wins every bridge tournament” and is one of Jepson’s “biggest fans”.
What he loves most about Mangawhai is the coast with its beaches and going out fishing because “a feed is always guaranteed”.
“I also enjoy the community – it’s very involved. I was the chairman of a committee to build the Gum Diggers Track, a 2.5-kilometre cycleway. The locals were fantastic. They turned up to all the planting bees and just got into it.”
Jepson is an outspoken opponent of co-governance and led the Democracy Northland petition against the introduction of Māori wards without public consultation in Kaipara.
KDC’s new Māori ward, Te Moananui o Kaipara, will be represented by Pera Paniora.
Jepson said of Paniora that he will have to work with the Māori candidate “she is one of the team”.
He said he didn’t know what the political interests of his Māori constituency were “because we haven’t formed our new council but I just have to tackle that one when it comes”.
When asked if he would honour the Treaty of Waitangi as mayor he affirmed that he would.
Next to co-governance and Three Waters, which he also opposes, a big challenge that Jepson identified in his new role was keeping the west and east coast communities of Kaipara connected.
“It’s my role to make sure that everyone feels like they have a fair opportunity through my council.”
In terms of roading, Jepson hopes to follow the advice of outgoing Far North Mayor John Carter, who suggested that Northland’s three councils join forces in lobbying central government to set up a 5-15 year fixed plan that’ll fix all roads across the region.
While Jepson is “disturbed” about “non-environmental and scientifically non-sustainable” plans to turn Dome Valley into a landfill, he believes there are “bigger things to worry about than climate change”.
He denies that the changing climate is a crisis for humanity and believes that human impact is much smaller than scientists say.
Jepson anticipates there would be a range of opinions within the council chambers and said as a leader it was “all about communication”.
“After 40 years of business, I never had any employment disputes. It’s all about reaching the middle ground and finding a way forward.”
When asked why he was wearing a MAGA cap at his election party which is an abbreviation of Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again”, he said his mate put the cap on his head and it didn’t worry him to be associated with Trump.
“He [Trump] did some good things and some bad things.”
Kaipara election results
Jonathan Larsen, Rachael Williams and Mike Howard have been elected councillors in Kaipara’s Kaiwaka-Mangawhai General Ward.
Mark Vincent and Ron Manderson won seats for the Otamatea General Ward.
In the Wairoa General Ward, Gordon Lambeth, Ash Nayyar and Eryn Wilson-Collins won the available three seats.
Karen Joyce-Paki, a sitting councillor who ran for mayor, also failed to win in her bid to represent the Wairoa General Ward.
Pera Paniora will represent the new Te Moananui o Kaipara Māori Ward.
The turnout in the Kaiwaka-Mangawhai General Ward, where new mayor Jepson lives, was the second-highest of any ward in Northland, at 44.4 per cent as of Friday October 7.
The overall turnout in Kaipara was 40.1 per cent on Friday, higher than 37.8 per cent at the same time in 2019.