New councillor raring to go

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Waimate District Council’s youngest ever councillor, Fabia Fox, says the issues the district
faces are “inter-generational”.

The 31-year-old policy analyst said she was “chomping at the bit” to get started in her new role, after securing 950 votes in this year’s local body elections to be elected to the Waimate ward.

Miss Fox had been thinking of running for council in her hometown for a while and felt the timing was right.

“Campaigning was humbling, people saying `I’m already voting for you’, and they’ve read the information and voted for me on merit – not because I am a woman or I’m young,” Miss Fox said.

“I did come across a bit of apathy about `What has council ever done for me? I’m not going to vote’, which was disappointing.

“I would like to lift that and show that the council can, and wants to, do good for you, no matter who you are.”

Miss Fox said she was happy to provide a younger perspective on the council, but did not see problems faced by youth as different from those of other age groups.

“When we are talking about youth, that doesn’t mean building a new skatepark.

“It means providing them a better future; that means looking at climate change, looking after our money so in 50 years they’re not lumped with horrendous amounts of debt.

“We want to lift everyone’s wages, not just getting kids jobs.”

She said she wanted to be a voice for issues such as community wellbeing.

“I think there is a lot of work to be done representing community wellbeing, instead of community outcomes.

“There is a lot of focus on sticking to your knitting or core infrastructure.

“If we can’t find anything to do, we have a community that is willing to come up with some great ideas and suggest some actions that will improve their community and wellbeing.”

Waimate had been a notoriously conservative council, she said.

“A perfect example of that is the current economic development strategy, because a landscaping plan, branding and signage, that is great, but that is not economic development.

“If we want economic development we need to be increasing people’s incomes, we need to be providing training opportunities for people without work to increase their employment opportunities.”

She was also passionate about environmental, social and cultural outcomes.

Miss Fox was head girl at St Kevin’s College in Oamaru, before studying at Otago University.

At present, she is the secretary of the Waimate Rugby Club which, in recent years, had become much more “family focused”.

“They would back me up in saying I am not afraid to shake things up,” she laughed.

“The rugby club has totally changed, not just off the back of myself, but the hard work of a lot of people, to really engage more with all the community.”

A self-confessed “local government nerd”, Miss Fox said she had a number of “council crushes”.

“Waitaki is a great example for small, rural communities for what well-considered growth can look like. Balclutha is another good example of great community engagement, and we can do that here [in Waimate].”