Support the Guardian

Available for everyone, funded by readers

The wild, wild West Ward

The wild, wild West Ward
Councillor Rodger Letham.

Incumbent Ashburton councillor Rodger Letham has accused challenger Dame Lynda Topp of displaying “a lot of naivety” in a public candidates’ session.
The pair, vying for two council seats from the Western Ward, along with existing Ashburton District Council deputy mayor Liz McMillan, crossed swords at the Grey Power meet-the-candidates meeting.
It took place when Letham answered a question around the proposed Ashburton Airport 30-year development plan, which Dame Lynda fired back at, demanding existing councillors not rush things through during the election.
“We don’t know half of what’s going on with that plan,’’ she said.
“It’s not fair that people, who are standing now as new candidates, are going to inherit things this council is trying to push through in a rush.”
Letham took umbrage at her comments, outlining the process of the proposed development plan.
That plan was due to come back to the council on October 5, which would be the current council’s last week on the job.
“There’s a lot of naivety there in the comments that have been made,’’ Letham said.
The public – including any potential candidates – had the opportunity to submit on the plan during the consultation process, he said.
There were 109 submissions received, with many of those speaking at the hearing.
“Those submissions will be taken into account and a new plan, including the submissions that were made, will be put before the council on October 5,” Letham said.
“To say that incoming councillors, or possible incoming councillors, haven’t had an opportunity is not true.
“Everybody in this district has had equal opportunity to have made a submission and have a look at the development plan.
“With all due respect to Lynda, there is a little bit of naivety there, jumping the gun.”
Earlier Dame Lynda had used her stage presence to deliver a passionate speech, calling herself “the new cow gal for the western ward”.
She criticised the council spending money on the beautification of Ashburton when the roads and footpaths were in dire need.
She even quoted some sage advice from her 93-year-old mother.
“There is no point in having a fancy garden if you can’t get to it.’’
Dame Lynda came out swinging, saying the time was up for some existing councillors and “what we need is some new blood”.
“I’m the new blood in the Western Ward.”

  • By Jonathan Leask