Betty McCallum



Richmond Borough Councillor


Betty McCallum

Betty McCallum. Nelson Provincial Museum, Nelson Mail Collection: 3369A.

Betty McCallum served one term on the Richmond Borough Council (1986-1989). Born in Gisborne in 1935, of Pākehā and Ngāti Kahungunu descent, she attended numerous North Island primary schools before completing her education at Gisborne Intermediate and Gisborne High School. She moved to Richmond in 1956 and raised five children in the town. Her involvement in community affairs began in the early 1980s when she was prominent in setting up Richmond's Te Kōhanga Reo. This concern to foster Maori culture and language, coupled with a desire to retain locally-based authority in Richmond in the face of imminent local body reforms, propelled her into local body politics(1). It was a rationale that dominated her thinking during her time on the Richmond Borough Council. Her desire to give prominence to these issues led her to contest the mayoralty for the first ever Tasman District Council in 1989.

In her mayoralty election campaign she sought recognition of 'participation and power sharing' rights guaranteed Māori under the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi (2). She promoted the idea of an equal partnership between the tangata whenua and the wider community, working together to address the social and environmental problems caused by previous generations. Dissatisfied with the local government reforms that ushered in the new Council, she offered an alternative arrangement in which the mayoral position would be abolished, elected councillors would share a rotating chairmanship of meetings, a Māori liaison officer would be appointed and a council staff representative would attend council meetings. All would have equal rights, power would be shared and decisions would be reached by consensus after consultation with the community. It was a radical blueprint that raised community consciousness of Māori perspectives. After her unsuccessful attempt to win the mayoralty, Betty played no further part in local government in the Tasman District. She later moved back to the North Island and died in Palmerston North in 2016.


This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p. 25. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell. 2018

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Sources used in this story

  1. ''Election Special: Local Body Poll '86' Nelson Evening Mail, supplement, 26/9/1986.
  2. 'Mayoral Candidates' Tasman District Council Elections Special Supplement, Nelson Evening Mail, March 1989, p.2.
  3. Image: Betty McCallum. Nelson Provincial Museum, Nelson Mail Collection: 3369A.

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