The Waitaki District Council, led by new Mayor Gary Kircher, has some new faces after the recent election. Oamaru Mail reporter Rebecca Ryan sat down with incoming Oamaru ward councillors Melanie Tavendale and Colin Wollstein to talk about the campaign experience and their thoughts on their first term.
For Colin Wollstein, being elected onto the Waitaki District Council Oamaru ward was a surprising result.
“You never know what’s going to happen when you throw your hat in the ring,” he said.
“I was fairly low key about the whole affair, but as it transpired I must’ve had something to offer so I got elected on. So here we are – I’m looking forward to it.”
Mr Wollstein has always expressed an interest in local body affairs in Oamaru, but spending his working life as a chartered accountant he’d never had time to be involved.
After retiring at the end of 2012, he had a few months of 2013 to relax, but thought he needed something to sink his teeth into again.
“I thought council would be a good outlet to hopefully use my skills for the betterment of the town,” he said.
With an accounting background, his main platform was economic growth.
“I want to help the region grow. So I’m keen to try and be involved in that area, because we need to make the region grow to make us all better off,” he said.
His first campaign experience was daunting at first, but enjoyable and he was very pleased with all of the support he received.
“Oamaru is a changing town. There are lots of new people that wouldn’t know me, so it was good to get the support I received,” he said.
Born and bred in Oamaru, Mr Wollstein spent about 10 years away from the town as he studied and began work in Dunedin.
“Then I was attracted back [to Oamaru] again and I’ve been back for 30-odd years now,” he said.
For Mr Wollstein, the scenery and central location of Oamaru were drawcards, as well as the friendly community and safe family environment. He has three children, now based in Dunedin, Wellington and Sydney.
On Tuesday, new and returning councillors met with new Waitaki District Mayor Gary Kircher and discussed where they would like to be involved in council.
“There’s a very positive vibe. We’ve got a new mayor at top, and councillors down below. There’s a good mix of old councillors for experience and new councillors coming in and a good spread all around. It should be a good mix,” he said.
For Mr Wollstein, it’ll be a steep learning curve for the next few months, but he’s looking forward to the journey.
“The important thing really is to get involved and find out how the whole system works and from there, just really get into it to make the maximum impact I can for the benefit of the council and the community,” he said.
At 32 years old, Melanie Tavendale is the youngest face on council, and she’s hoping to use that to her advantage to get a buy in from the youth of the region.
Her election also came as a surprise, despite overwhelmingly positive support throughout the campaign.
“There was so much support out there that I was hearing and a lot of people saying they wanted some new blood, but until the actual Saturday night it was hard to know how far reaching that was,” she said.
“It’s been pretty fantastic to have people vote for me and take that chance on me.”
She’s a full-time mum now, but being previously employed as Trustpower’s Community Relations representative saw her working alongside various councils and a real interest in local body politics was sparked.
“I just had a real interest and there’s so many people talking about what they wanted to see done around town, especially young people, but they weren’t putting their hands up so I thought I’d give it a go,” she said.
As a first-time councillor, she’s looking forward to the learning experience, but has a vision for Waitaki and won’t shy from communicating her ideas.
She campaigned a lot on seeing council “get back to basics”, including grass cutting, rubbish bins and “all of the things that would make Oamaru a nice place to live”.
“We’re on the main street between two major towns, it’d be great to see a bit more pride taken in our appearance,” she said.
“Also a bit of buy in from younger people would be fantastic. Hopefully I might have a role there to play, and I’d love to see a dog park created. I think that’d be well utilised.”
Mrs Tavendale grew up in Oamaru and after about 10 years away was attracted back to her hometown in “a fantastic region, with so much to offer”.
She’s looking forward to being part of Council and making the region a better place for her two young children to grow up in.
“It’ll be nice to have a say in that. We’re such a fantastic region, we can only go onwards and upwards,” she said.
“I think we’ve got a fantastic council, from all walks of life, all age ranges and I think they’re all really positive people who want to do well for the community.
“It’s going to be a good balance, I think.”
At the moment, she’s just taking it one step at a time, but she’d love to think that she has a future in council long term.