Who will win Timaru’s two-horse mayoral race?


Timaru District voters have two choices for mayor in 2022 - one-term councillor Stu Piddington, left, or former councillor and one-term mayor Nigel Bowen.


Timaru District voters have two choices for mayor in 2022 – one-term councillor Stu Piddington, left, or former councillor and one-term mayor Nigel Bowen.

Two candidates are vying for Timaru’s top job – former councillor and incumbent Nigel Bowen and councillor Stu Piddington.

Having been elected to the Timaru council with an overwhelming majority in the 2018 by-election, which he then repeated in his first mayoral campaign, can Nigel Bowen do it again?

Or will one-term councillor Stu Piddington be successful in his first crack at the district’s top job?

With just five days left to vote in this year’s local body elections, time is running out for those eligible to have their say over who represents them for the next three years.

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Bowen, who has served one term as mayor, went up against four other candidates at the 2019 election and won by a landslide with 8759 votes. Timaru businessman and volunteer Gordon Handy was the closest with 4982 votes, and former Timaru mayor Janie Annear was third with 4092. The two other candidates, Shane Wilson (327 votes) and Kari (AJ) Mohoao (190 votes) were the lowest polling candidates. There were 32 informal votes for mayor recorded and 241 left blank.

In the lead up to the 2019 election, Bowen led unscientific Stuff polls for preferred mayor – one in early October giving him 52% of the vote, with Handy and Annear tied on 20% each and Mohoao and Wilson on 4% each.

The final share of votes was not too far off those polls, of those who cast eligible votes for mayor in 2019, Bowen held 47.7%, Handy 27.1%, Annear 22.3%, Wilson 1.8% and Mohoao 1%.

Bowen, who also stood in the Timaru ward as a councillor in 2019, was the highest polling candidate with 9264 votes, which put him well ahead of Steve Wills on 7526 votes and Sally Parker who garnered 5601.

Parker is seeking re-election this year, but Wills – who has served the past term as deputy mayor, is not.

At the time, Bowen had served as a Timaru District councillor for two years after winning a by-election in September 2017, when councillor Tracy Tierney resigned to take up a full time paid role with the council.

Nigel Bowen, left, and Stu Piddington address the crowd at a meet the candidates' event during the 2022 campaign.

Maddison Gourlay/Stuff

Nigel Bowen, left, and Stu Piddington address the crowd at a meet the candidates’ event during the 2022 campaign.

Bowen was elected with an overwhelming majority, securing 5241 votes over his nearest rival – Mark Rogers who received 1795 votes. Three other candidates contested the by-election, they were Anthony O’Brien (1338 votes), Owen (OJ) Jackson (1255 votes) and Murray Cleverley (823 votes).

Jackson is having another crack at getting a seat at the council table this year, and is going up against 14 other candidates for one of six Timaru ward seats. In 2019, 16 candidates contested the Timaru ward.

Piddington, who was the lowest polling of the six Timaru ward councillors elected in that year, has just completed his first term on the council and is running for both mayor and Timaru ward this year.

Piddington got 3772 votes in 2019, putting him just under 400 votes behind Allan Booth (4170 votes) and 942 votes off Barbara Gilchrist’s 4714 votes. Three-term Timaru ward councillor Peter Burt was the other candidate elected in 2019 with 4987 votes. Burt, Gilchrist and Booth are also seeking re-election.

The number of votes returned across the Timaru District in the first two weeks of the voting period has fallen behind that of previous recent elections, but only just.

As of Friday night, 9687 people had voted in the Timaru District which equates to 28.31% of those eligible. That number is back on the three previous elections, with 33.77% voting by the same stage in the 2019 election, 31.85% in 2016 and 33.79% in 2013.

Overall, voter turnout in the Timaru District has increased from 51.16% in 2013 to 55.01% in 2019.

Geraldine leads the Timaru District’s three wards with 34.89% of votes returned by Friday, followed by Timaru ward with 27.82% and Pleasant Point-Temuka ward with 25.65%.

One-term councillor Gavin Oliver, Jan Finlayson and Wayne O’Donnell are contesting the two Geraldine seats.

The two candidates in the Pleasant Point-Temuka ward, Michelle Pye and Scott Aronsen, have been elected unopposed.

Voting in the 2022 local body elections closes at midday on Saturday.