In my first column since the election I would like to say a big THANK YOU to every person who voted in the local body election. Whether or not you voted for me, you showed that you care about our community and you are willing to do something to ensure we have the best leadership possible.
Anyone who has thought of standing for Council should start planning for 2013 – I know three years seems a long time but it flies by and if you are serious, start now.
Those of us in our first term are quickly learning more about how Council works outside of the public gaze. I’m convinced we have a skilled team of passionate staff who also do their very best because they too love this community. All of the old Councillors have been very supportive and patient with us newbies and the formal meetings to date have reaffirmed why we want to be in the role. Pam Murphy, Rehette Stoltz and I attended new councillor training in Hawkes Bay this month, it was great to spend time with them, to meet other Councillors from neighbouring areas and to get more insight on the opportunities and limitations for local authorities.
With the support of The Gisborne Herald I plan to continue using this column as an opportunity to reflect on local issues and bring another perspective on Council matters.
An article in Friday’s paper on a discussion at Council last week probably deserves some clarification. The Voter Participation Project was designed to increase the level of voting in neighbourhoods that have had very low turnout in previous elections – and those areas tend to have poorer, browner and younger populations than the rest of the city. Last week Councillor Haisman said he did not like the fact that I had attended, along with a number of other candidates, the four VPP events in these neighbourhoods.
As I explained in the meeting, but was not reported, the project manager and the GDC staff member responsible for ensuring a fair and robust election invited all candidates to attend a briefing to explain what was and was not permitted at those events. I attended the briefing along with about dozen other candidates and we agreed that while any of us could be present at the events it was not appropriate to be distributing promotional material and we would not be given a speaking platform. I was encouraged by the commitment of the other candidates who made the effort to attend those events in Kaiti, Elgin and Mangapapa.
As a passionate advocate of the democratic process I helped find funding for the VPP as neither GDC nor the Electoral Commission seem to have a focus on raising participation in areas that have low turnout. As an intending candidate, to avoid any claim that I could influence the implementation of the project in my favour, I made it known last year that I would not have any role in the governance or management of the project and I honoured that commitment. What I did do was exercise the same right that every other candidate had to participate in the project events and show our interest in those communities.
I would like to take this opportunity to publicly thank my amazing team of supporters and my family who provided advice, encouragement and gentle challenge during the election campaign. Thanks also to the organisations who value democracy and got in behind the VPP. I expect to be held accountable for the things I said I wanted to do something about. Please contact me or another Councillor if you have ideas or concerns that we might be able to do something about.