Former Rotorua councillor Mark Gould is leaving with the usual magnanimity of one who has served the community for more than 15 years, 12 in office.
He doesn’t look back in anger.
This week, in Rotorua’s daily newspaper, three of six folk interviewed over Saturday’s election outcome recognised the quality of Mark’s length of service.
Not appreciated by all, but admired by many for commitment, Mark drew praise from MP Todd McClay, multicultural council president Margriet Theron and Don Cole, a member of the public.
Other than praise from councillor collegiality at such moments, the tributes are unprecedented in this journalist’s memory.
Yet, it should not be overlooked that Mark is part of an imperceptible mood for change below mayoralty level.
Long term councillors were dumped in 2016; this time, Rob Kent joined Mark Gould. Such loyal retainers such as Trevor Maxwell and Dave Donaldson finished ninth and 10th in the race for 10 seats, signalling their time is nearly over, in the push for change.
As a measure of Mark Gould’s generous nature, he filled in for Mayor Steve Chadwick three weeks ago when she attended a meeting in Whakatane.
He had broken a day of pamphlet deliveries to ensure a council presence at the Arnhem Day commemorations at the Government Gardens.
Without the usual recriminations or regrets, Mark today says: “I wish the new council well and remind them that the road ahead is long and arduous but never to forget that they represent the people not themselves.”
It encapsulates the Mark Gould ethic. He was no one’s pea in a whistle. He worked entirely on instinct for his constituents.
Denied major council responsibilities, Mark found satisfaction in public transport as a link with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. An August decision to improve Super Gold Card travel hours on buses pleases him. Those hours extended from 9am-3pm to 9am to later in the day and all day at weekends. The reintroduction of a weekly bus service (at least until June next year) to Mamaku is another.
He also enjoyed escorting overseas visitors around the council enclave, a considerable revenue earner over the years at a fee to add to the council coffers.
“I received no extra payment for this but I generated quite a substantial income for the council.”
At $1000 (plus GST if you please) per visit, for sometimes three to four delegations, the maths are hardly Euclidean or Pythagorean.
Disappointments? He had a one or two, like missing deputy chairmanship roles under either Kevin Winters or Steve Chadwick. “But at least I did represent the council in areas where it was felt I was needed,” Mark says.
He also attended many community meetings around the district, some unpopular and often avoided by his council confrere. Saturday was not the first time Mark Gould has lost favour with the public. He lost his place in an earlier ward system. Though fourth – with the first three winning seats – he polled better than the councillors who topped the vote in the remaining three wards.
Mark was especially adept – if seen as pedantic – at figures.
He stood for the mayoralty in 2016, finishing fourth in a strong and populated field.
He retained an independent voice.
Of the sitting councillors, he was not the biggest loser at 17th on election night figures as Rob Kent finished 22nd, with Charles Sturt and Karen Hunt having retired.
Mark Gould railed against the rates increase of 4.9 per cent, reduced from the proposed 5.1pc because, he says, “Rotorua could not afford it”. He refers to fixed incomers and especially renters who ultimately would pay through increased rents.
He had also opposed the trans-Tasman flights between Rotorua and Sydney, a disaster which seemed overnight to increase the council debt.
“We were promised that there would be a lot of extra flights coming into Rotorua. My view was that the flight to Sydney was [to] the wrong city – it should have gone to Brisbane; it had the tourists and had a lot of people from New Zealand in Brisbane.”
As for Saturday he says he’s disappointing at missing out.
“But I’ve got to look at changes,” he says mulching at not only alterations but the gardens at St Davids Church, Rotorua.
Each Tuesday, Mark helped cut and provide vegetables for the St John Church food appeal.
It may now become a regular position. But gaining fulltime employment may be a harder row to hoe.
“I’m at an age where I feel I can still put a lot back into the community,” Mark says. “I need to find a niche.”
■In a perverse preparation for political life, Mark Gould twice looked down the barrel of a shotgun during bank holdups in Rotorua. The second, some 43 years ago, had serious consequences, and reverberates in his psyche today.
He and security guard Howard Percy, aged 65, wrestled with the robber, a shot penetrating Mr Percy.
The 19-year-old Mark Gould, a teller at the ANZ Bank on Old Taupo Road, then fled with a female colleague to seek help.
The security guard died. The case remains one of New Zealand’s unsolved murders, though twice since in recent years the case has been reprised as new evidence has resurfaced. But the balaclava-masked robber scarpered and has not been caught.
But the heist has remained a vivid memory for Mark Gould, later a photographic businessman, councillor and prominent member of the Rotorua National Party.