Local Politician of the Year

The ‘People’s Guru’ made his mark on Kapiti last year

By Alan Tristram

Mr K  Gurunathan, universally known as Guru, is probably the most unusual and interesting person ever to rise to the top of local politics in Kapiti (and perhaps, New Zealand).

Unusual because he comes from an Indian family and was born in Malaysia, but now seems more ‘Kiwi-ised’ than many English migrants who’ve settled on the Coast.

But, unlike many Malaysian Indians, he is also a committed Christian in one of the many small church groups so popular in Kapiti.

A journalist, through and through

He’s also a journalist through and through, by nature as well as vocation —  though, of course, most of this has been put on the back burner while he serves as Mayor, after two terms as a Kapiti Councillor.

I’ve known Guru for many years, so I’m writing this from a ‘personal’ viewpoint.

I like him, but I realise that a sizeable minority of locals dislike or detest him  — some, interestingly, because they think he is a ‘fundamentalist’ Christian who may therefore be biased against gays, liberals or whatever.

I think this is nonsense actually.

An investigative journalist who upset some powerful people

Some dislike him because of his controversial work as an investigative journalist on the Kapiti Coast for nearly 20 years.

A few politicians think he is untrustworthy. But to that, I’d say: ‘It takes one to know one.’

Anyway, here are some of Guru’s strongest points:

  • He’s highly intelligent and actually reads books, in contrast to some of his contemporaries.
  • He’s a ‘people’ person, who takes the trouble to mix with the hoi polloi.
  • Humour — Guru possesses a good sense of humour and can laugh at himself.
  • Politics: I don’t think he could ever vote National, because, like me, he thinks in terms of people, not profit or class interests.
  • And Guru can work across the spectrum, mixing with Maori, Pasifika, Pakeha and, yes, Indian Kiwis.

 Some more details

He’s 60, and is happily married to Claire. They have three children, the youngest still at college.

Guru and youngest son Ari and their faithful German Shepherd

He worked as a journalist for more than 30 years, the last 18 with the Observer, Kapiti News and Beach FM.

During this time, he covered local government, economic development, environment, Maori issues and the arts.

But, unlike many local paper journos, he was never afraid of upsetting important people or rattling their cages.

And people with a cause, no matter how seemingly hopeless, always found him willing to listen.

According to his election blurb last year, he says: “I’m passionate about my community and (I) am committed to the values of democracy – representation, transparency and accountability.

“I want genuine public consultation, restoration of public confidence in local democracy, reduction in rates/debt levels, more local jobs, care for the vulnerable and a greener environment.”

A Man for All Seasons?

So there you have it: ‘A Man for all Seasons?’

We will have to see.

The Kapiti Mayoralty has already proved a less than happy spot for his two immediate predecessors, Jenny Rowan and Ross Church.

Both went before they thought their time was up.

So let’s see if our ‘Local Politician of the Year’ can stay the course.



The two main reasons why his predecessor Church was voted out were: 1) the 180 degrees he did before and after being elected Mayor on the water meters which 70% of ratepayers didn’t and don’t want, and: 2) the steady increase in rates and charges well above inflation from his failure to reign in Dougherty’s extravagant spending on administration and worthless projects (Waikanae river recharge, Cleantech etc).

If Guru can’t turn that around he will go the same way.