Nelson City Councillor 1992 - 2001 Deputy Mayor 1995 - 1998
1992, and the Council was preparing to demolish the former Council Chambers - the 1903 building - a deemed earthquake risk. This was a highly contentious issue. I was asked to attend a public meeting to allow residents to air their concerns regarding this. It was a cold, wet, winter's night and the hall was packed. The mayor and councillors lined the stage and the speakers airing their views in opposition were numerous. I soon formed the opinion that they were not being listened to and that the demolition was 'a done deal'! Back home and ranting about the meeting, my husband asked what I was going to do about it. "I think I will stand for Council," I replied. And so I did.
After being elected, I was appointed to Community Development, Consents, and Works committees. I must have been a thorn in the side of staff and colleagues, as my school teaching background saw me regularly pointing out errors of spelling, grammar and punctuation in our Council papers. My first term on Council had me advocating for kerbside recycling, decent public toilets and a bus to serve the city's disadvantaged areas. I also introduced Doggy Do bags. I have to say, I was not a good team player and would not engage in "horse-trading", voting only for those things I believed the public wanted and that I was happy to support.
At the 1995 elections, I had the honour of being the first person ever to poll more than 10,000 votes. I was offered the role of deputy mayor - a position traditionally going to the highest polling councillor. Apart from having the title and occasionally standing in for the mayor at functions, this made little difference to my role on Council. My second term saw me continuing with all the projects I had in train. I had the satisfaction of seeing 'The Bus' up and running, a 'Superloo' in Montgomery Square and kerbside recycling in place - albeit in supermarket bags!
The 1998 elections saw a change of mayor and deputy. I freely admit that I was piqued, as I had topped the polls. However, work continued, albeit with myself seemingly in the firing line on many occasions. A few months later, kerbside recycling was dumped. I also had the traumatic experience of being ordered into the office of a senior councillor and being verbally savaged for failing to support the mayor at the day's strategy meeting. Some days later, I heard via a reliable source, that 'The Bus' was going to be dumped at the forthcoming Estimates meeting. I had three days to prepare verified figures, showing the cost to ratepayers, of various public services subsidised by Council. At $1.83, 'The Bus' subsidy was the lowest on the list. Without comment, I presented copies of my notes to all present at the meeting. 'The Bus' was saved. The next day I resigned.
Should I ever have stood for Council? Probably not! Was I ever going to become a politician? Highly unlikely!
This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p.44. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.
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Further sources - Tui France
- Richardson, S., Henry, E., Collingwood, G. Mitchell, H. (2018). Women decision-makers Nelson and Tasman 1944-2018. Nelson, New Zealand