Deputy mayor ‘disgusted’ by response to Georgina Beyer sculpture

2:08 pm on 2 May 2024
Georgina Beyer was the world's first openly transgender mayor and the world's first transgender Member of Parliament.

Georgina Beyer was the world's first openly transgender mayor and the world's first transgender Member of Parliament. Photo: Wairarapa Times Age

Carterton's deputy mayor is "disappointed" and "disgusted" at the response to a proposal to erect a memorial sculpture of the late Georgina Beyer.

"I'm just really disappointed at how some people have expressed their views by tearing apart a deceased person and their character when they can't defend themselves," Carterton's Deputy Mayor Dale Williams said.

Beyer, who died last year, was elected mayor of Carterton in 1995, making her the world's first openly transgender mayor.

Williams said he was "disgusted" by the comments his council had received regarding a proposal to erect a life-sized bronze statue of Beyer.

Early modelling of the sculpture by Paul Quested.

Early modelling of the sculpture by Paul Quested. Photo: Supplied via LDR

Carterton councillors met on Wednesday to discuss the proposal, but decided to seek public feedback on the idea and potential location before supporting the project further.

The sculpture would be externally funded and has been endorsed by the executors of Beyer's estate. The estimated price to complete the sculpture is between $300,000-$500,000.

Beyer also became the world's first transgender Member of Parliament and was celebrated for her courage, sharp humour, and fierce advocacy of the communities she represented.

Williams said he was "incredibly disappointed" in some of the discussions in the Carterton community about the project and at "how the conversation deteriorated from a discussion around a memorial or public monument into Georgina's character, sexuality, politics, all of that".

"As a human being, I have been disgusted at some of the comments that the council has received and people have said."

Williams did however acknowledge concerns from the community that now was not the time to be discussing the project.

"It's absolutely clear, separating the principle and the person … The two things that have come forward is that it's controversial and it's a distraction.

"Most people are grappling with [the] Long-Term Plan [LTP], with life, with a whole lot of things, and I guess for me … I don't have a strong opinion yes or no, but I believe not now."

He said it could be discussed once the council had completed its LTP process and representation review.

"I believe we can have a responsible and respectful conversation around this particular topic and do fair justice to the person involved".

Georgina Beyer's official portrait as Mayor of Carterton.

Georgina Beyer's official portrait as Mayor of Carterton. Photo: Supplied via LDR

Mayor Ron Mark said he had received some emails regarding the proposed memorial sculpture.

"I always remind myself that communities have their top 1 percent and they have their bottom 1 percent".

"Knowing Georgina, as a parliamentary colleague and a friend, she'd be laughing right now because she has always been controversial," Mark said.

"Anything you do, naming a street, putting a little brass plaque down, or putting a memorial up is going to be controversial because that is the nature of Georgina's life.

"Georgie was a controversial mayor, a controversial parliamentarian, but one thing she certainly did was put Carterton on the map.

"If we can't recognise someone who has performed on the international stage, who are we ever going to recognise?"

Many of the comments online regarding the project were focused on the cost and impact on other fund-raising initiatives in the district, or desire to erect a memorial of other mayors who contributed to the town.

Councillors resolved to "seek public feedback on the development of a Georgina Beyer memorial sculpture and location subject to external funding before the end of the calendar year".

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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