Jan Fryer


Nelson City Councillor 2003 - 2007

I was elected to Nelson City Council in June 2003 through a by-election, following the death of long serving Councillor, Jo Raine. My background was in local government, having trained in Parks and Recreation Management at Lincoln University and worked at both Tasman District Council and Nelson City Council mainly in the roles of Recreation Advisor and Community Development.

jan fryer
Jan Fryer Nelson City Councillor 2003-2007

At Tasman District Council, I had always enjoyed a good working relationship with the councillors and felt that as a team, we worked well together for the benefit of the district.

Following the birth of my children, I was involved in establishing a pre-school in our local area. It was my experience of this process that really propelled me into the realms of Council. I came across a real "can't-do" attitude from many of the agencies who were stakeholders in the project, particularly the Council. I gained a great deal of confidence through that pre-school project and wanted to do something that created a "can-do" attitude that promoted innovation, community participation and above all - common sense, particularly from the regulatory authorities.

Coming in on the by-election proved quite difficult as I was thrust into a very steep learning curve. I was one of the youngest councillors at the time and my confidence was well tested in those first few months by both the male and female councillors. The men tended to attack more directly so you could see it coming, whereas the women were a little more indirect. I still remember rushing out of a meeting in tears after a particularly difficult debate and landing up in the Head of the Planning Department's office. The poor man was handing me tissues while trying to find out what had happened.

It was all part of that learning curve, finding my place in the group and developing the backbone to deal with the negativity, particularly from the public.

We had our usual issues in the Council team but developed a good working relationship, particularly with the staff and I enjoyed the challenge, the camaraderie and the achieving of some major milestones.

I faced another election after only 15 months. Another three years cemented many of my debating skills and saw the gradual change in some of the attitudes in the Council. However, I found that I am really more of a doing person than a talking about it person. Politicking frustrated me.

There were many changes occurring in local government, particularly as responsibilities shifted from central government to local government. Councils were reacting, in my view, with more of a fortress mentality and bureaucracy was becoming the modus operandi. Councillors were being actively discouraged from engaging with staff. I felt this was a backward step as although governance must remain distinct from management, good leadership involves willing followers.

After four and a half years, I was ready to move on, continuing to make the occasional waves, but now in areas I am particularly passionate about.

This was published in: Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944 -2018, p. 55. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.

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Further sources - Jan Fryer


  • Richardson, S., Henry, E., Collingwood, G. Mitchell, H. (2018). Women decision-makers Nelson and Tasman 1944-2018. Nelson, New Zealand