You can run but you can't hide

You must be a sucker for punishment to hunt administrative center in native govt when your personal conversations develop into fodder for social media

It was once a quiet cafe, a bit of out of the town, and Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine had selected it for simply that explanation why for his common catch-up together with his deputy, Sharon Roche.

The pair sat in the summertime solar and mentioned council issues, and the mayor’s hopes of having away for the weekend together with his spouse.

Roche was once encouraging.

The mayor hadn’t had a smash for some time, and in a small position, you’re by no means unobserved or off-duty.

When we all know you, simply having the ability to stroll into a cafe unrecognised turns into a luxurious.

And, sure, there was once some climate at the manner, however the forecast didn’t glance too unhealthy and now could be a great time for the Cleines to have a few days in Wellington, the mayor and his deputy agreed.

They have been blind to the girl at a close-by desk taking note of their quiet dialog.

Later that week, the whole thing modified.

Red alert

On February 2, the MetService put out a crimson caution: Buller was once in for its 2nd flood in 8 months.

Cleine cancelled his Wellington bookings and went into the administrative center at 11pm to arrange the Westport emergency centre. He was once there all evening.

And the next day to come, plastered in every single place Facebook, was once a virtually verbatim account of his cafe dialog with Roche.

The mayor wouldn’t be round for the emergency as a result of he was once having a wee vacation whilst the city flooded, the eavesdropper optimistically introduced.

“What amazed me was she had our conversation almost word for word – I think she must have recorded it on her phone,” Cleine says.

Although the privateness breach was once egregious, it was once most likely now not solely sudden, the Buller mayor says.

“When you stand for council, people see you as public property, I suppose. You get used to it, it’s part of the job. It [the woman’s FB post] was annoying, but what can you do?”

And in spite of the eavesdropping episode, he’s getting ready to face for a 2nd time period as mayor come the council elections in October.

Undercover … Buller Deputy Mayor Sharon Roche and Mayor Jamie Cleine, pictured at Reefton’s one hundred and fiftieth anniversary celebrations closing yr, might be forgiven for purchasing about incognito. Photo: Lois Williams

Up for it

Greymouth Mayor Tania Gibson could also be sport for any other 3 years, in spite of an identical stories, even though none as brazen as being recorded in a restaurant, she says.

“You definitely are public property – people will have a go; I get texts at all hours of the night, or they’ll just want to talk to you.”

That applies whether or not or now not her youngsters are together with her, Gibson says.

“When I’m going out, I’ll have the children tugging at my sleeve going, ‘Come on Mum,’ and I’m going, ‘Hold on, hold on,’. You’re all the time to be had in that sense and you’ll be able to’t move to the grocery store having a look untidy.

And you will have to be ready for some in point of fact mad claims from the rabbit-hole brigade, Gibson says.

“I’m still getting messages from people who think a 12-year-old girl died while I was handing out ice blocks at a Greymouth Covid vaccination event. They accuse me of helping to cover it up. It’s unbelievable, some of the stuff you get.”

Spouses, too, want to pay attention to what’s coming their manner if their different part will get elected, the Greymouth mayor says.

“Stephen [her builder husband] got a bit of ribbing from his mates when I got in. They’ve kind of got used to it, I think.”

The former hairdresser has moved her industry out of her house and hired a supervisor to run the salon whilst she concentrates on being mayor.

“I’m used to making decisions because I’m a business owner. But there was just so much to learn on council. People don’t realise how much. And we’ve had the Three Waters reforms and Covid to cope with as well.”

It’s simple for aspiring councillors to marketing campaign about decrease charges or getting issues executed sooner, Gibson says.

“But councils have a whole lot of processes they have to work through and you can’t just cut through it – it’s called democracy.”

Grow a thick pores and skin, learn a couple of long-term plans and swot up at the Local Government Act is her recommendation to wannabe councillors.

Calling it an afternoon

Westland Mayor Bruce Smith gained’t be status for a 3rd time period come October.

He’s lately begun extensive remedy for a significant well being challenge he’d reasonably now not talk about.

But that’s now not the rationale he’s pulling out.

“I told my council in 2016 I’d go for two terms and that’s it. I did say I might stand for a seat on the [West Coast] regional council this year, health permitting. But right now I’m not confident of that. So I’m bowing out of local politics for now to focus on getting well.”

Bruce Smith appearing his mayoral tasks for Westland. Photo: Lois Williams

Councillors and mayors are truthful sport for damaging public remark, Smith says, and being the outspoken kind, he’s smartly used to it.

“The moment you put your name down as a candidate, you accept you’re a public figure, so it’s not unreasonable for people to approach you or challenge you.”

But there’s a line that are supposed to now not be crossed, Smith says.

“There are always a few that’ll take it too far and you’re entitled to fight back.”

Smith fought again with a vengeance closing yr when he gained a defamation case in opposition to two other folks, together with former councillor Anthea Keenan, who’d many times made what the High Court discovered have been “unsubstantiated allegations of corruption and fraud” in opposition to him.

Last month he had Keenan adjudged bankrupt after she didn’t pay prices of $16,333 ordered through the court docket.

“You have to make a call about whether to ignore some of this stuff or whether to take action. But the laws of defamation are there to protect people’s reputations.”

That contains mayors’ and councillors’ reputations. Smith says.

“When the allegations are really damaging, I think we should be using these defences more.”

Smith’s recommendation to intending council or mayoral applicants in a small group is to pay attention to possible conflicts of hobby.

“If you’re a large landowner or a business person, you need to think carefully about how your interests might be served by the council. If you are pushing your issue, you’re not going to be serving the community as you should.”

Mayors can best paintings with the hand they’re dealt on the elections and single-issue councillors on the desk can also be very disruptive, Smith warns.

His different piece of recommendation is to verify your spouse is on board along with your political ambitions and is aware of what they’re in for.

“You really need a good partner because your life isn’t your own once you’re on council. The phone rings at all hours – you pick it up at 10.30 at night and it’s someone upset about a dog barking.”

And overlook about weekends, Smith says.

“All the major community events happen at weekends. You have to be there so your family needs to be totally behind you.”

Back for extra

West Coast Regional Council chair Allan Birchfield, who’s shaping up for any other time period, says he’s sorry Smith gained’t be status.

The Greymouth gold miner is not any stranger to complaint: lampooned in nationwide media for his perspectives on local weather alternate and just about toppled in a coup closing yr through fellow councillors.

“I was counting on Bruce for support next term. But you just have to box on and stick to your principles.”

A thick pores and skin is worthwhile for a neighborhood baby-kisser, says Allan Birchfield. Photo: Lois Williams

He concurs with Gibson {that a} thick pores and skin is worthwhile.

“As long as the voters support you, it’s all water off a duck’s back. That’s how I see it.”

Made with the enhance of the Public Interest Journalism Fund

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