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Mayor Toby Adams with Brian Gentil, Duncan Smeaton, and Ross Harris, who have had their final meeting as district councillors. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Councillors farewell outgoing colleagues

When Duncan Smeaton became a Hauraki district councillor, he was just a Waihī ratepayer chomping at the bit to see how he could contribute to local government.
But getting himself voted in during the 2016 elections was one of the most difficult things to overcome, he said, because telling the public to: ‘vote for Duncan Smeaton ‘cause he’s a real good guy’ made him uncomfortable.
In fact, he was so self-conscious ahead of his first term as a local politician that he resorted to sticking up his candidate placards under darkness.
“I turned up [to a property] at 10 o’clock at night so no one could see me, and I was banging away on the fence, and a window opened two metres in front of me and someone yelled: ‘What the eff are you doing!?’”
Duncan, who is one of four Hauraki district councillors opting not to stand again this year, said he learned that “if you want to get on council, you’ve got to promote yourself”.
The September 28 council meeting was the last for Plains ward councillor Ross Harris, and Waihī ward councillors Duncan Smeaton and Brian Gentil. Paul Anderson is also not standing for the Waihī ward for a second term but was absent from the meeting.
They were awarded certificates and thanked for their service.
“I’ve learned a lot,” Cr Gentil said. “It’s been a challenge, it’s been a joy, it’s been the opposite. I’ve got new challenges I’m looking forward to including, hopefully, catching up with my mokopuna [grandchildren], two of which I haven’t met yet.”
Ross Harris is standing down after six years as a councillor, and at the meeting, he mentioned his friend and fellow Plains councillor, Rodney Garrett, who died on June 6 after a hard-fought battle with cancer.
“The first term I really, really enjoyed. This term has been difficult, and I can feel my chest getting tight already,” he said.
“We had Covid and I think we all coped… but we all went through Rodney’s 18 months of passing away, and while Toby talked about my work ethic, mine has got nothing on what Rodney went through in those last 18 months; he just wouldn’t give up, and I hugely respected the way in which he thought.
“So, I really have struggled this term, but I am really excited about what we’ve achieved.”
Hauraki Mayor Toby Adams said the current calibre of councillors was the best he’d seen.
“I honestly believe that in my time here, this has been the best council, the most cohesive council, and the most district-thinking council. We’ve supported other wards in their endeavours, and we haven’t questioned any funding… in times’ past, that wouldn’t have happened,” he said. “It’s going to be hard to replicate those dynamics, but I wish you well in your endeavours. You will be missed immensely around these tables.”