Gisborne councillor resigns from committee 'tired of internal politics'

2:13 pm on 14 January 2020

Gisborne district councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown has resigned from the council's regional transport committee, saying she is tired of the internal politics that have left her without a leadership role in her third term.

Gisborne district councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown

Gisborne district councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown Photo: Aaron van Delden

Councillors voted in support of her replacement councillor Andy Cranston at their final meeting for 2019 on 19 December.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz said she asked Akuhata-Brown why she had put herself forward for the committee only to resign a few weeks into the 2019 council term. She said Akuhata-Brown realised she should not have put her name down from the outset.

It was understood Akuhata-Brown resigned from the committee due to a part-time job outside of the council that would take up more of her time than anticipated, Stoltz said from the airport in Johannesburg yesterday ahead of flying back to Gisborne following a summer break.

Akuhata-Brown said she did not want to go into detail with the mayor about why she resigned.

Yesterday she said she wanted to make every minute count.

"I'm not going to waste my time, in my view, where I'm not respected or given the space to grow," the 49-year-old said.

She had sat on the regional transport committee since 2013 and was set to be its chair last term before being pipped at the post by councillor Bill Burdett, who put his name forward for the job when he returned to a full council meeting where the chair was being voted on. At that stage Akuhata-Brown's appointment had been all but decided.

Burdett's deputy was first-time councillor Malcolm MacLean.

This term, as well as wanting to be deputy chair of the regional transport committee - which is being led by councillor Pat Seymour, with Burdett as deputy chair - Akuhata-Brown wanted to be the mayoral appointee to Trust Tairawhiti on the basis she had worked in the community for decades.

The trust role went however to another councillor, Shannon Dowsing, who was one of six elected members vying for the position.

Akuhata-Brown said that after six years on the committee she had developed a good understanding of regional transport issues as well as good relationships with New Zealand Transport Agency staff.

She felt the committee was not given an opportunity to debate the appointment of Burdett as deputy chair at its first meeting on 21 November.

Despite this, Akuhata-Brown seconded Seymour's move to appoint Burdett as deputy chair at the meeting.

"I sensed, in that moment, (the decision to appoint Burdett) was a done deal," said Akuhata-Brown of her decision to endorse Seymour's resolution.

It reflected her frustration at not being considered for the role, but in hindsight she should have "made a fuss" at the meeting and she said she would in the future be focused on challenging decision-making she viewed as undemocratic.

Akuhata-Brown said there were "exciting things on the horizon" for her personal and professional development, and a tilt at national politics may be part of that.

She had potentially lined up a part-time job - to supplement her $44,009 annual councillor salary - and would study political science extramurally through Victoria University of Wellington.

Stoltz said she appointed Cranston to the regional transport committee because she needed an experienced Gisborne ward councillor to sit alongside the three rural councillors, Kerry Worsnop and councillors Seymour and Burdett, who make up the committee along with an NZTA representative.

no metadata

Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the Newspaper Publishers' Association and NZ On Air.

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs