Waipā: June election

It’s a yes from one, and “I’m thinking about it” from the other.

The two Waipā Māori ward candidates who finished behind the now resigned councillor Takena Stirling last year could both be contenders again in the by-election to replace him.

Bill Harris was a definite yes when spoken to within hours of the announcement Stirling had resigned and on Monday Gaylene Roberts told The News she was thinking about it.

And during that conversation she received a text from a supporter suggesting she does stand.

Stirling, who quit after being suspended as a lawyer, won the seat with 309 votes last October from Roberts (163) and Harris (76). Less than a quarter of the 2417 eligible voters returned their papers.

Nominations for the by-election in the Waipā Māori seat open next week. The postal election will cost up to $25,000. Only those enrolled on the Māori electoral roll are eligible to vote.

Nominations close on April 27 and the delivery of postal voting papers will start on June 1. Voting closes on Friday June 23 and the successful candidate is likely to be announced the same day.

The election will be managed independently on council’s behalf by electionnz.com.

Stirling’s admonishment by the New Zealand Law Society which prompted is resignation was revealed by The News on line last Friday. A short time later it was confirmed he had resigned from council.

The Law Society had posted details of the suspension on its website on a day earlier.

Takena Stirling at his swearing in with mayor Susan O’Regan. Photo: Mary Anne Gill

On Friday the Waipā District Council told The News it was not aware of any decision coming out about Stirling, but 20 minutes later, the council issued a statement saying mayor Susan O’Regan had accepted Stirling’s verbal resignation effective immediately.

Calls to Stirling from The News went to voice mail.

O’Regan said she was deeply disappointed.

“It’s not just me. All councillors are disappointed and frankly, quite disheartened. This is not what we wanted for our council or our district or for those whom Takena represented,” she said.

“Takena has taken full responsibility for his actions and I am grateful for that. Now we can get on quickly and get someone else into his seat. By law (Local Government Act) we have no choice but to hold a by-election so let’s just get on with it.”

The Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal has suspended the Te Awamutu lawyer on an interim basis from 22 December 2022.

The society’s Standards Committee sought the suspension order after laying two charges. The first was based on affidavit evidence that Stirling had deceived his bank or misappropriated funds. It reported the bank suffered a net loss of $85,000 after it used $15,000 held by Stirling in a separate fund to mitigate its loss. The second charge indicated that Stirling’s trust account dealings had been irregular for some time.

The Tribunal found that Stirling had “lost his moral compass in relation to trust moneys” and was a risk to the public and any bankers that he may engage.

Takena Stirling’s presence on the Waipā District Council website has been taken down.

Read: Councillor suspended from legal practice

Read: Te Kanohi appointments on hold

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