She was new to the office in 2010 when she was advised carpet was being laid.
“I said ‘there’s nothing wrong with this carpet’, van Uden says.
“They said ‘but we’ve got the money to do it’. I said: ‘Use it on something else’.”
Very different to Wellington where they were going to spend $350,000 on refurbishing the Mayoral office.
It is symbolic of the pride she takes in her frugal approach.
A recent flick through the candidates’ profile book published as she bid to step up from councillor to mayor in that same year shows her promising to bring council spending and rates increased under control with a focus on council services.
As she prepares to hand over the mayoral chains following six years in the job she says she achieved her financial goals by working on a zero-based budgeting model – trying to achieve efficiency in services, without cutting them.
Council vehicles, phones and legal fees were targeted. Staff muffins for morning tea and council lunches at 12.30pm before a 1pm meeting disappeared from the budget.
“This is other people’s money that we are spending,” she says. “It is incumbent on us to say ‘Is it fair reasonable and what we should do with other people’s money?’ because we don’t give them any choice about taking it off them.”
We need more Mayors with this attitude.
However, she was pleased to achieve zero rates rises.
“At the stage that I took over we were about $100m in debt. Through good prudent financial management across the organisation we are now currently, about $95m in debt.”
So a 0% rates rise and a fall in debt. Bravo.