By DAVID HILL
Waimakariri Mayor, David Ayers, doubts he could juggle service on the council with a teaching career today, given the workload of councillors.
Reflecting on being awarded the Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM), in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, the former Waimakariri Mayor says things have changed since he was first elected to the Rangiora Borough Council in 1983.
“If I was younger I would do it again, but I don’t know if I would have got started if I was a teacher now,” says the former Rangiora High School deputy principal.
“The Rangiora Borough Council used to meet in the evenings, while the county councils tended to meet during the day, so that was part of the cultural change that took place after 1989.
“When we amalgamated most meetings were in the late afternoon or evening which was manageable for a teacher, but with the amount of business now you couldn’t do it.”
When he was first elected in 1983, Mr Ayers was 36-years-old and even then he was not the youngest councillor.
Today Mayor Dan Gordon, at age 46-years, is the youngest elected member sitting at the council table.
“I’ve never been the youngest or the oldest around the council table,” Mr Ayers says.
The workload of councillors today means few young people put their hand up, as they would need to juggle work and family time.
During his 36-year local government career, Mr Ayers says the earthquake recovery stands out as his highlight.
“The earthquake dominated people’s lives for quite a few years and some of the regeneration work is still ongoing.
“And it dominated our town centre planning. We were always looking at our two main town centres through an earthquake recovery lens.
“In some ways the earthquake recovery was not a hard time for the council because we had the community behind us, but it certainly changed the focus of our long term financial planning.”
In some ways the period following amalgamation in 1989 was even more challenging than the earthquake recovery, as several very different councils came together to put together an annual plan.
Those were the days before Long Term Plans, which has simplified planning as annual plans generally follow on from the LTP – unless there is a major disaster like an earthquake or pandemic, or a change in legislation, Mr Ayers says.
But the Waimakariri population has more than doubled since 1989 and continues to grow at a rapid rate and legislative requirements are greater, placing greater demands on elected members.
Mr Ayers says the honour is “gratifying”.
“But you also recognise that anything you do in the community you do with other people and I’ve always had good people around me – a supportive council, a supportive community and a supportive family.
“And certainly having Marilyn beside me, keeping me fed and attending events with me made a difference.”
There were six North Canterbury recipients in all in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, including five Queen’s Service Medals.
Queen’s Service Medals:
Christine Joy Greengrass, Kaiapoi, for services to the community.
Harry Earl Pawsey, Hawarden, for services to advocacy and conservation.
Virginia Ann Pawsey, Hawarden, for services to advocacy and conservation.
John Kenneth Wyatt, Kaikoura, for services to the community.
Sandra Jean Wyatt, Kaikoura, for services to the community.