Nelson City Councillor 1986 - 1989
How did I come to stand for Nelson City Council? I woke one morning thinking that probably ordinary people could stand for Council. A long-serving female councillor (Pat Tindle) was not standing again and I contacted her for a chat and advice. I attended a number of Council meetings as an observer prior to the election. My publicity material included that I had common sense. A man posted the leaflet back to me with a note that there was already far too much common sense in the world.
I seemed to be well received by other councillors, and if there were any male attitudes of women playing a lesser role, I was immune to them. I asked for detailed information on how roads were constructed, in an endeavour to understand the great costs. This apparently went down well with those in authority - a woman taking an interest.
Being a councillor was a very interesting experience and I was sorry to miss out at the next election when the city was divided into wards, a once-only event and unnecessary, as it was essential for councillors to take an interest in the whole city. I had made the mistake of standing for the ward I had recently moved to, instead of the one I had lived in for over 20 years. Of course those who knew me were unable to vote for me.
There were some interesting moments. Soon after I was appointed Civil Defence Welfare Officer I woke to thick fog after a stormy night. A strange horn sounded. Was it a call to HQ?
I stayed under the blankets, feeling slightly guilty. That night I read in the paper that the noise was a squid boat's fog horn.
When the Council was discussing the city library the men thought the size of the room allocated to the Chief Librarian was adequate. When I pointed out that it was smaller than my sitting room, more space was added.
It was interesting that people rarely asked me anything about Council. However a woman did ask why I wasn't quoted more often in the paper. Those were the days when a lot of council discussions were reported. In this case my comment was there but it had been attributed to one of the men. I occasionally deputised for the Mayor, welcoming groups to the city, speaking at a peace park celebration etc. One day the usual chairperson was unwell and I was asked to chair the meeting, at which funds were allocated to various causes. It caused a bit of a stir as the councillor thought I had disposed of too much money.
At a hearing about the burning of household and garden rubbish a complainant was most concerned about a neighbour burning old tyres. I had always enjoyed burning rubbish when it was allowed. The man fixed his eyes on me for the whole time and I had trouble keeping a straight face and concentrating on the seriousness of the issue.
I remember my time as a city councillor with appreciation, having found it a worthwhile experience.
This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p.44. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.
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