Kate (Kathleen) Light BA, JP.
Motueka Borough Councillor 1977-1980 and 1986-1989 and
Tasman District Councillor 1989-1992
'A Woman's Place is in the House' (of Representatives) was a slogan from the Women's Movement of the 70s'. To myself, I added: '...and around the local council table'.
At the 1977 Motueka District branch of Women's Electoral Lobby's seminar which was actively promoting women to stand for election, Sonja Davies, one of the speakers said: 'If the bus stops, get on!' I did. With support from friends and family, I put my name forward for the 1977 election to the Motueka Borough Council (MBC). I was one of two women elected to the MBC that year, after a gap of 30 years since the election of the first woman, Laura Ingram, Councillor 1944-1947. Miss Ingram gave me sound advice - "Make sure you get yourself onto the finance or works committees because that's where the major decisions are made".
I served a second term on the MBC, 1986-1989, during the time of amalgamation. Among significant issues to be worked through were the differences in the various rating systems in the amalgamating local authorities, and the different levels of indebtedness each council was carrying.
On the Tasman District Council (TDC) 1989-1992, I was a member of the Finance and Administration Committee, and was fortunate in being Chair of the Environment and Planning Committee. During this time the Resource Management Act 1991 was introduced. This was an interesting time for the committee, with new provisions for managing the environment to be taken into account, and without case law and precedence to help with decisions.
There were five women on the first TDC, 29% of the councillors, all with previous experience in the councils which had amalgamated to form the TDC, bringing knowledge of the areas which they had represented. We shared a strong belief in the need for women to be involved in decision-making and importantly, were very supportive of each other. Today 21% of the councillors are women. Women seem more likely to be involved at the Community Board level, in Golden Bay and Motueka, and in some cases this has been a stepping stone to standing for election to the TDC.
My family were in agreement that I should pursue my involvement in local politics, but on one occasion, as I headed to another evening meeting, I had to promise my sons that I would not stand on my chair and make a speech!
My husband and women friends helped me weather the sometimes not so friendly phone calls and the odd anonymous letter, but these did not undermine my positive experience of being involved in the local political scene.
This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p. 15. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.
Sources used in this story
- Image: Kate Light 24 September 1992. Nelson Provincial Museum, Nelson Mail Collection: C12479.
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