The Eastern Bay of Plenty's sole health board member plans to lobby ministers after a major drop in the region's representation following the elections.
Preliminary election results show only one person from the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Ian Finch, has been successful in obtaining a seat on the 12-member Bay of Plenty District Health Board.
Last term, the Eastern Bay had three representatives on the board, two elected and one appointed.
None of the three, who include Whakatāne's new mayor-elect Judy Turner, stood for re-election.
Mr Finch said while he was honoured to be elected, it was a shame more local candidates weren't as health needs differed widely between the Eastern and Western Bay.
"Our community has very different needs as opposed to Tauranga," Mr Finch said.
"We have a massive need for a different healthcare approach, and I will always make sure we receive an approach which is appropriate for our district - a whānau-centred approach, an approach which understands that the needs of our community are distinctly different to Tauranga, especially around access to service."
While promising to advocate strongly for the district, Mr Finch said one person on the board for the Eastern Bay was not enough, and he planned to petition Health Minister David Clark and local MPs Kiri Allan, Tamati Coffey and Anne Tolley to ensure appointed DHB members hailed from the Eastern Bay.
The Minister of Health appoints up to four members to each DHB as well as the board's chair and deputy chair and will often consider perceived skill shortages when making the appointments.
"I will be saying, 'look, we need at least one or two more people from this area on the board'," Mr Finch said.
"I have been told by previous members that people from Tauranga do care about what is happening in the Eastern Bay, but that is not the same as coming from here and really knowing the communities and the health issues they face. They can't feel it in the same way we do."
Unsuccessful candidate Mawera Karetai, who ran a joint campaign with Mr Finch, said she was extremely concerned about the lack of representation for the Eastern Bay.
"I am deeply concerned about this as it means that all the decisions for health in our part of the Bay will be made by people who have absolutely no connection to here and don't understand the barriers to health," Ms Karetai said.
"I am deeply concerned about what that will look like for us as a community going forward."
She believes a ward system should be looked at, like district and regional council elections, to ensure all regions receive fair representation.
"Representation matters," Ms Karetai said. "If you live in Tauranga, you would think Katikati is rural. But, when we think rural, we're thinking of communities like Minginui and Nukuhou, which are really remote. The barriers to health for those communities are so different to those who live in Tauranga. We have far bigger social problems here and that representation really matters."
Outgoing board member Ms Turner said it was very disappointing to only see one Eastern Bay candidate elected out of the six who put their names forward.
She said Eastern Bay candidates faced the difficulty of also needing to attract votes from the Western Bay, as it had a higher population base, to be elected.
"There was also some uncertainty among voters this year as to who was an Eastern Bay candidate," Ms Turner.
"We do have our own particular challenges down here around isolated communities and health equity issues which are felt particularly keenly in the Eastern Bay. It is a big load on Ian's shoulders and health is currently underfunded."
Despite her disappointment in only having Mr Finch elected, Ms Turner said the community could take heart that he would do a great job and that it would also have representation through the Māori Health Runanga.
Nearly 70,000 voting documents were sent to voters across the Bay, of these 7788 were returned blank with no votes made for DHB members.
Final results will be announced Thursday.
Preliminary Bay of Plenty DHB results
New BOP DHB members:
- Mark Arundel - 11,310 votes
- Marion Guy - 7484 votes
- Geoff Esterman - 7338 votes
- Ian Finch - 8365 votes
- Bev Edlin - 7128 votes
- Hori Ahomiro - 6931 votes
- Ron Scott - 6892 votes
Unsuccessful Eastern Bay candidates:
- Mawera Karetai - 4429 votes
- Joel Hingston - 2433 votes
- Malcolm Whitaker - 2107
- Sneha Gray - 1990 votes
- Chris Kinghazel - 1195 votes
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