Women Decision-Makers of Tasman 1944-2018


In 1893 when women gained the right to vote in central and local government elections there were several local authorities in the Tasman area. Gradually these have been amalgamated, culminating in the formation of the Tasman District Council in 1989.

women decision makers

Women decision makers Nelson and Tasman. Cover image

The exception was the Whangamoa Riding of the Waimea County Council which was amalgamated with Nelson City Council. Today the Tasman District Council stretches from Richmond in the east to Farewell Spit in the west and south of Murchison to the tiny settlement of Rappahannock. It covers an area of 9,786 square kilometres and has a population of approximately 50,000.

While two of the former councils, Murchison and Collingwood County councils, had no women elected to them, the Motueka Borough Council blazed the trail for women councillors in the Nelson/Tasman area. In 1944 Laura Ingram became the first woman councillor in the region when she was elected to the Motueka Borough Council. Due to other interests she did not stand again in the 1947 elections.

In 1947 three years after Laura had been elected Ella Bydder was elected to the Takaka Town Board. This small town board was amalgamated in 1956 along with the Takaka and Collingwood County councils to form the Golden Bay County Council. Ella remained a councillor with the Golden Bay County Council until 1959, serving a total of 12 years in local government.

Over the hill in Richmond in 1961 Pixie Sanders became the first woman on the Richmond Borough Council. However it wasn't until 21 years later in 1983 that Colleen Twin became the first woman councillor on the Waimea County Council.

Ann Lewis who was elected to the Golden Bay County Council in 1980 was one of only two women to chair a county council in New Zealand while Elaine Henry as the Deputy Mayor of Richmond Borough from 1986-1989 is the only woman in the Tasman district to date who has served as a deputy mayor. As yet no women have been elected as mayor.


Tasman District Council Logo

In 2018, 21%, or 3 out of the 13 councillors and mayor on the Tasman District Council are women. Yet women comprise 51 % of Tasman's population. 

This was published in Women Decision-Makers Nelson and Tasman 1944-2018, p. 8. Compiled by Dr Shelley Richardson, Elaine Henry, Gail Collingwood, Hilary Mitchell.

Sources used in this story

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

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