Tasman District Councillor
My motivation to stand began long before I realised or recognised it. The 'university of life' was moulding my passion and energy gradually through my time at Collingwood Playcentre and service on the Nelson Playcentres Association; involvement in the Aorere Catchment Project; Federated Farmers, with Dairy Chair and Provincial President roles; and the Nelson/
Marlborough Conservation Board. There were a number of mentors along my journey who saw in me capabilities that I didn't. With maturity, praise, and a few prods this introvert, who was often told she was bossy as a child, found out what governance was, and that I liked it: it was where I could contribute. Finally I felt I had discovered my niche in life. My partner's support and encouragement have made it possible.
Being unsuccessful in a 2010 by-election was a test of motivation that turned into determination. I continued my current roles and completed two different year-long governance training courses. With confidence, focus and stronger skills I was elected to Fonterra Shareholders Council in 2015 and the following year to Tasman District Council (TDC).
The time commitment to TDC is huge and variable so I am appreciative that I am doing this at a time in my life when it's generally just my partner John and me at home. I am also very glad I invested in governance training as it better prepared me for what is governance and representation and what is management's role.
With TDC being a unitary authority I have really enjoyed the wide variety of matters on our agenda and gaining my RMA hearings certification. It has been a challenge to get to grips with the plethora of legislation that guides local government and my first Long Term Plan review cycle was a very steep learning curve. However councillor work-shops on topics, friendly and professional staff as well as Local Government New Zealand have been very supportive of me as a new councillor coming to grips with the different processes.
On the job I felt very welcomed into chambers by the returning experienced councillors. I have had good and bad days, encountering all emotions. One goes from enjoying healthy debate moulding better outcomes to feeling extreme frustration when the public nature of our decisionmaking meetings encourages 'political' behaviour in chambers.
Challenges are public speaking, media and the different realities of what ratepayers offer as commonsense ideas and solutions only to find they are frustrated by our increasingly regulated society - a society that has a huge variation in differing values.
Writing this mid-term of my first term about what I have encountered so far as a councillor is confirmation that our form of democracy we call local government in New Zealand is, while clumsy and slow at times, overall encouraging and supportive of community collaboration. That's a healthy way to run our communities and I am keen to continue this role.
This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p. 35. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.
Do you have a story about this subject? Find out how to add one here.