Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo appoints Phil Halse as second in command

Long-serving politician Phil Halse (right) is new Whangārei Deputy Mayor, part of the council’s governance leadership with Mayor Vince Cocurullo. Photo / Susan Botting, LDR Northland

Northland’s longest-serving current local government politician is Whangārei’s new deputy mayor.

Eleven-term Whangārei District Council (WDC) politician Phil Halse (72) has taken the council’s second-top governance leadership job.

It comes after he first began as a WDC councillor in 1992.

The retired Mata farmer, now living in Whangārei, was re-elected to the council in the October 8, 2022 elections, representing the Bream Bay general ward.

Halse is a former Northland representative rugby player and Northland Rugby Union chairman, president and current patron.

His new appointment by Whangārei Mayor Vince Cocurullo (48) will be his third deputy mayoralty.

Cocurullo said he had appointed Halse to the deputy mayoralty due to the latter’s long experience in local government.

Halse said he was looking forward to working more closely with the new mayor, to get the district moving again.

“Things like getting the [2021] Rugby World Cup to Whangārei, I want to keep building on that for our district,” Halse said.

He first held the deputy mayoralty for one term from 2004 to 2007 with Mayor Pamela Peters.

“I know the job inside out. I am looking forward to getting going in the role,” Halse said.

Halse was also previously deputy mayor for three years from 2010 to 2013, with Mayor Morris Cutforth. He also served as acting mayor on and off over eight months soon after the 2010 elections, when Cutforth became unwell.

Halse has, as a councillor and deputy mayor, worked under five previous WDC mayors before teaming up with Cocurullo – Stan Semenoff, Craig Brown, Peters, Cutforth and then Sheryl Mai.

He has also worked with 58 councillors during his WDC tenure.

The new Whangārei governance leadership duo have known each other for four decades.

They first met when Cocurullo was 5, when as a young boy he came out to the property next door to Halse’s Mata farm to pick grapes with his parents Frank “Butch” and Ivy Cocurullo.

The pair have been WDC politicians together for nine years during Cocurullo’s three council terms from 2007-2010 and then from 2016 until 2022.

Halse has predominantly represented the Bream Bay area during his 30 years on council.

He had a short stint in the then Okara ward, which at the 2022 elections has morphed into the Whangārei Urban general ward.

The new WDC will be sworn in on Wednesday, November 2 at 4.30pm in Forum North, with their inaugural meeting the following day at 9am at the same venue.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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