Tasman District Councillor 1995-1998
Being involved in local government politics was not on my agenda but from October 1995 to October 1998 that all changed. Shifting back to Murchison after seven years on the West Coast I found myself shoulder tapped to stand for the Nelson Lakes-Murchison Ward. I was elected unopposed much to my shock and certainly to the shock of a number of locals. Murchison's first woman in over 100 years to be elected to local government in this district had happened.
The Nelson Lakes-Murchison Ward was rurally isolated and conservative. It was not a good time to be elected with Tasman District Council (TDC) implementing the Resource Management Act (RMA). The farming community was up in arms, incensed at the encroachments on their land rights. The meetings in woolsheds to discuss the RMA often turned into shouting matches with TDC staff and councillors alike having abuse hurled at them by farmers. The mob mentality was alive and well as we saw farmers marching up the main street of Richmond to have their demands met.
Rural-based councillors had a different and difficult position from that of urban- based councillors. The community took ownership of you and you were the easy and closest target for all council decisions that did not go their way. The intrusion into my personal, family and business life was unacceptable. My husband was frequently waylaid and encouraged to sort the b.... out.
I was scrupulous about pecuniary interests perceived or otherwise and declared such and withdrew from discussion and voting. It didn't matter. I was their representative and as such I was to vote every and whatever way to satisfy the Ward. This was not conducive to good decision-making.
Being rural meant travelling one and a half hours each way to meetings over roads that were isolated and dangerous in winter. I just hoped I did not get a flat tyre on a wet dark night. Rural was not appreciated by urban. When it came to decision-making I followed my predecessor's advice: Ask yourself how will this affect the people who live at Rappahannock, a farming community on the far-flung reaches of the Tasman District Council.
I never regret standing for TDC and my time on Council has served me well. It was a time of challenges that I relished. I enjoyed the networking that I did with other women in local government regardless of our political views.
I was frequently harassed, bullied and undermined but that is what it is. The cut and thrust of politics. My motto was get over it and make the best of it for the people who mattered: the people that needed a hand to circumvent the red tape of Council, the person on their mobility cart that couldn't navigate the kerbs that were high and dangerous, the people who feared their children would fall into the open drain designed by people who did not have children.
I learnt about speed reading, the difference of political decision-making and financial decision-making and just because I was a newbie to Council it did not mean the oldies had more knowledge.
Sources used in this story
- Image: Anne Redwood 12 September 1995. Nelson Provincial Museum, Nelson Mail Collection: C28843.
Want to find out more about the Anne Redwood ? View Further Sources here.
Do you have a story about this subject? Find out how to add one here.