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Redirecting her political career

Opinion Piece

The resignation of Meredith Akuhata-Brown from the Regional Transport Committee over what she says are internal politics that have left her without a leadership role at the council in her third term is an unfortunate situation.

This is especially so with regard to her view that she is “not respected or given the space to grow”, and the fact she is a strong representative at the council table of Maori and youth interests and also of our most vulnerable citizens.

Of course, this situation could also be seen as a consequence of her mayoral ambitions. In that regard Ms Akuhata-Brown indicates today that her focus in future will probably turn to national politics. This would likely be with the Green Party.

At the local body elections in October she was a distant second in the mayoral race, with 3845 votes compared to Rehette Stoltz's 10,589 (Ross Meurant got 1578).

Three years earlier she was the third-highest polling city ward candidate with 5341 votes (last year she was fifth, with 5019 votes) and, after having served a term on the Regional Transport Committee, was set to chair it — and was being congratulated on this by colleagues — until previous deputy Bill Burdett returned to the meeting where two contested chairmanships were being decided by a secret vote of all councillors (a first in the council's 27-year history), belatedly added his name to the transport committee ballot, and won.

Your editor thought at the time that Ms Akuhata-Brown had been hard done by and we asked in our next webpoll who readers thought should be chair of the Regional Transport Committee; she was the clear winner with 63 percent, against 21 percent for Mr Burdett.

Adding to the full-council snub, the committee — which includes three rural councillors and just the one city representative — then elected first-term councillor Malcolm MacLean as its deputy chairman.

New Mayor Rehette Stoltz has returned to the practice of deciding who will chair the council's committees, and Pat Seymour was a logical choice for regional transport (as was Shannon Dowsing to be the mayoral appointee on Trust Tairawhiti) among the various leadership roles distributed.

As Ms Akuhata-Brown says today, she should have made the case for being deputy rather than seconding Mrs Seymour's move to appoint Mr Burdett to the role, however that opportunity has passed and a passionate, popular local politician has started to redirect her political career and aspirations.

Leave a Reply to Lara Meyer Cancel reply

  1. Lara Meyer says:

    I am not surprised that Cr Akuhata-Brown has been marginalised. Cr Akuhata-Brown was brave enough to shine a light and challenge poor behaviour and attitudes demonstrated by some of her colleagues. From my perspective, she did the right thing in that case.
    I have listened to some people speak of their “dislike” of Cr Akuhata-Brown. They appear irritated that she had the temerity to air “dirty laundry” over the comments made in 2018, which gained the attention of the national media.
    I think Gisborne District councillors and the Mayor would do well to examine their motivations. What a shame that personal feelings appear to have superseded professionalism yet again.
    If Cr Akuhata-Brown demonstrates behaviours which impinge on her ability to perform the job she was elected to undertake, someone in authority over her ought to provide her with mentoring and professional upskilling. That is what a fully-functioning council would do, not sideline and marginalise an elected official.
    If there was an issue with performance, address the issue and play the ball not the woman.