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To see the world through others’ eyes

Sandra Faulkner stood for the council because she wanted to use the skills and experience she has gained, across many years in agricultural governance, to serve her community. She talked to reporter Murray Robertson . . .

The 47-year-old farmer was brought up on Te Hoe Station at the end of Willow Flat Road on the Mohaka River in Hawke's Bay, in the shadow of the Mangaharuru Ranges.

“It was a charmed childhood, isolated but surrounded by native bush and some of the North Island's most spectacular scenery.

“When not at school, my pony and I spent our time shadowing my father around the farm — poor Mum had very little chance of catching me in the kitchen or garden.”

She is the daughter of Jim and Beverley Haliburton, who still farm in Havelock North, and has an older brother, Alastair, who now runs the family farm along with Medallion Petfoods in Waipukurau.

“Mum and Dad were probably not surprised when I decided to seek election to Gisborne District Council and Hauora Tairawhiti District Health Board. They've gotten used to me taking the opportunities that life offers.

“Mum and Dad raised us to contribute, to give back to others — there was always vigorous debate around our kitchen table on the issues of the day. Church, Pony Club, gardening groups, school fundraisers, Federated Farmers — there was always something that required Mum's amazing baking or beautiful flowers.”

Shepherding to pay for university took up a couple of years after school but it was an opportunity to train polo ponies in England that opened the door to nearly a decade of travelling the world.

“Travelling is quite addictive” she says.

“The more you see, the more there is to see.”

It was always going to take a special bloke to stop this wanderer and Sandra married Rob Faulkner in 2002.

They have two sons — William 17, and George 14. Together with Rob's family they farm Wairakaia Station at Muriwai.

“I love my farming life,” the Nuffield Scholar said.

“To care for a piece of land that not only nurtures my family, but nourishes many, many other families, is a privilege afforded only to food producers.”

Mrs Faulkner joined Federated Farmers in 2004.

“It's genetic. My Dad and grandfathers were all involved in Feds”.

Elected to the council

Sandra has filled many roles locally and nationally over the years.

She was Gisborne-Wairoa provincial president when she left the organisation to seek election to the council.

Her husband rolled his eyes and simply said “go on then” when she told him she was intending to stand for council.

“Rob and I are a pretty tight team, and he's always supported me.

“He's a good guy,” she said with a loving smile.

Her life threw up a major challenge in her early 40s.

“Life took an interesting turn in 2016 when I was faced with my own mortality.”

She was diagnosed with breast cancer.

“Going through this breast cancer journey has afforded me a personal perspective on the health and wellbeing of the community.

“Not only amongst people who are suffering health setbacks of their own, but also on the sheer amount of talent, support and goodwill that exists in this community.”

Her decision to stand for Hauora Tairawhiti sprang out of that.

Mrs Faulkner was elected to the council as a representative for the Taruheru-Patutahi ward.

She has thoroughly enjoyed the experience so far.

“The great thing about being a member of a unitary authority like the GDC is you are working as a councillor across town and country — we are responsible for both city and regional services and infrastructure.

“For me there's no delineation when it comes to the needs of our communities.

“I've spent my entire life not buying into the rural/urban divide, because the basic needs for all our people, wherever they live, are the same — good food and drinking water, homes that are warm, dry and safe, access to reliable energy supply, communication, schooling, healthcare, etc.”

Sandra said it's really enjoyable to feel she gets to make a positive contribution to her communities.

“We have a great team of people around the council table, very capably led by Mayor, Rehette Stoltz and Deputy Mayor, Josh Wharehinga.

“As anyone who has been involved in agricultural politics will know, it's really refreshing to not be continually fighting a rearguard action from the bottom of a trench.”

Will she consider standing again at the next election?

“I am on a huge learning curve but if people feel I have represented them well, then I will stand again.”

Sandra Faulkner loves her family — but she has another passion.

“Horses are my other great love. They are the thread that has run through my entire life.

“They say that the outside of a horse is the best thing for the inside of a man, or, in this case, woman.”

Sandra is the vice-president of Gisborne Riding for Disabled, a movement she feels very strongly about.

“To see the joy light up in the face of a child as they experience the warmth and movement of a pony is a gift indeed.”

Sandra has another pet saying too that says a lot about her character, her qualities and her view on life.

“Seeing the world through other people's eyes always enhances your own view.”

Sandra Faulkner with Merchiston Barnaby. Picture by Liam Clayton