Getting to know our new councillors

There will be five new faces around the table when the next Waitaki District Council meets for the first time later this month. Tim Blackler, Courtney Linwood and Rebecca Ryan have been elected to the Oamaru ward, John McCone joins as a new Corriedale councillor and, in Ahuriri, Brent Cowles was elected unopposed. Kayla Hodge chats to Tim, Courtney, Rebecca and John about the journey ahead.

Passionate about local decision making

Tim Blackler: 34, aged residential care facility director/part-time geologist

If you had asked Tim Blackler a month before local body election nominations closed if he would stand, he would have said ‘‘not this time around’’.

‘‘I have always thought that it is something I would like to do at some stage in life . . . a few people tapped me on the shoulder to give it a nudge, so in the end I decided, since I’m always passionate about local decision-making, now is as good a time as any,’’ Mr Blackler said.

The former Waitaki Boys’ High School head boy received 2797 to become one of three new faces on the council’s six-seat Oamaru ward at the weekend.

‘‘I’m very excited and appreciative many of the people of Oamaru felt they are able to put their trust in me.’’

Mr Blackler grew up on a South Canterbury farm before his family moved to Danseys Pass.

He studied geology and music at Otago University, and worked abroad as a geologist before working for a rural accountancy practice and studying accounting papers online through Massey University.

Nearly six years ago, Mr Blackler and his wife, Belinda, bought Northanjer and Southanjer rest-homes, in Oamaru, and operated them with ‘‘our amazing team’’.

He looked forward to the challenge sitting around the council table would bring, and adding a fresh perspective.

‘‘I’m looking forward to providing a balanced, well›reasoned and researched perspective on various matters that we are required to make decisions on.

‘‘I intend on speaking openly and honestly about my perspectives on behalf of all, including the various matters I campaigned on, while recognising that this is one perspective of many that will be offered around the table.’’

He was thrilled to be elected in third place and appreciated the support the community, and Oamaru ward voters, had given him over the past couple of months.

‘‘There is lots to learn, but I am excited to put my energy and commitment into being part of this team. Thank you.’’

Can’t wait to get stuck in

Courtney Linwood: 26, Scotts Brewing Co duty manager

When nominations for local body elections opened, Courtney Linwood had an ‘‘overwhelming urge’’ to put her name forward.

Unlike other candidates, being a councillor was not something Miss Linwood had seen in her future, but when former deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale stepped down, the timing felt right to stand up.

‘‘Mel was always someone I looked up to. I felt like I would be a really passionate voice for our community — I wanted to have a say in the decisions that were going to affect our future,’’ Miss Linwood said.

Receiving 2329 votes to claim the sixth seat in the Oamaru ward was not something she took lightly.

‘‘It’s an absolute privilege and honour to have been elected. It took a while to sink in to be honest.

‘‘It’s going to be a big learning curve, but I can’t wait to get stuck into it.’’

Born and bred in Oamaru, Miss Linwood left school half-way through year 13, and with no future aspirations, she ‘‘wasn’t heading down the best path in life’’.

In 2015, she joined Scotts Brewing Co and grew in confidence, surrounded by uplifting and supportive woman, she said.

At 20, Miss Linwood became pregnant with daughter Rylee (6). She took up a job at Dean and Coleman Law in 2020 as a receptionist-secretary, carrying out trust account work while studying towards a legal executive diploma at the same time. Earlier this year, she returned to Scotts while continuing towards her diploma, and adding another diploma in operations management to the mix.

Miss Linwood’s priorities for council included affordable public transport, ensuring ratepayers were heard, being involved with the community and making a difference.

‘‘Maybe even inspire some more youth into standing for council. I’m looking forward to having a say and offering my opinion, as well as bringing fresh perspective, energy and enthusiasm for our future, moving forward,’’ Miss Linwood said.

She was overwhelmed by the support she received from the community.

‘‘To those of you who don’t know me personally and still decided to take a risk and give me your vote, thank you. To my friends and family, your unwavering support and encouragement got me through an incredibly stressful few months, thank you.

‘‘I will do my absolute best to serve our community to the best of my abilities.’’

Plenty of ideas but ready to learn first

Rebecca Ryan: 32, Marketing and communications specialist

A passion for local issues and a desire to make a difference has led Rebecca Ryan to the Waitaki District Council.

Ms Ryan, the former Oamaru Mail editor and Otago Daily Times North Otago bureau chief, topped the polls, receiving 3026 votes to become an Oamaru ward councillor.

‘‘I am so grateful for all of the support I have received and I am very excited about the next three years,’’ Ms Ryan said.

Growing up on a small farm near Gore, Ms Ryan studied a bachelor of arts at Otago University, journalism at the Southern Institute of Technology and has a ATCL diploma in speech and drama from Trinity College of London.

She moved to Oamaru in 2012, working for a then daily Oamaru Mail, and then as a North Otago reporter for the ODT, before moving to Wellington in 2016.

Her background in journalism, and working in policy, research and communications and social media advisory roles at Parliament, gave her unique insight into local government, she said.

After moving back to Oamaru three and-a-half years ago, Ms Ryan left the newspaper in August to start her marketing, communications and digital agency, ReCreative Communications, and to stand for council.

‘‘I also saw an opportunity to build a better relationship between the community and the council. I want the best for our district, and I want to represent the people of Oamaru well, listening to them and helping them achieve their aspirations and goals.’’

It was an exciting opportunity to work alongside the new team of councillors, she said.

‘‘There are a lot of ideas I have come in with, but I have got a lot to learn first, so I am looking forward to working out the system and seeing where, when and how I can progress them.’’

She was delighted to have the community’s support behind her and looked forward to working hard for it over the next term.

‘‘A massive thank you to everyone who put their faith in me — your support and confidence mean the world.

‘‘I will not take this opportunity for granted and I will do my best to be a good advocate for the community and make a positive difference for Oamaru and the Waitaki district.’’

John McCone.

Priorities lie with farming sector

John McCone: self-employed/rural real estate

The rural community is the heart of the Waitaki district, and John McCone is determined to do his best to make sure its voice is heard around the Waitaki District Council table.

Mr McCone topped the polls for the Corriedale ward, receiving 887 votes to become a new face for the area.

He felt humbled and honoured to be given the opportunity to represent his community.

‘‘I am looking forward to being a part of a team working in a governance role to help guide and grow the whole Waitaki district,’’ Mr McCone said.

‘‘The role of councillor will be a steep learning curve and will have challenges, but so does life.’’

He is no stranger to council either, being part of a council committee for the Waitaki district water plan in 2006 and 2007, and was involved with the Tokarahi Water Scheme — he recently stood down as chairman after 19 years, and is now director of Corriedale Water.

Recent legislation ‘‘ignored’’ rural concerns and that, paired with ‘‘a little peer pressure’’, prompted Mr McCone to put his name forward for council.

Growing up in North Otago, Mr McCone studied at Waitaki Boys’ High School and briefly attended Lincoln College before returning to Tokarahi to start farming.

Through the years he had been involved in many groups, and was still involved with Tokarahi Dog Trial Club.

He had recently started working in real estate, specialising in lifestyle and rural properties.

The rural community had been part of his life since he could remember — and his priorities lay with them, he said.

‘‘Farming is one of the district’s biggest industries. Being pro›active, continuing to improve and provide well› maintained infrastructure such as roads and water supplies will help in continuing to providing a solid foundation for the rural sector.

‘‘Communication is important, local knowledge is invaluable and can be very cost effective.’’

He was grateful to the people who voted for him and congratulated him since last weekend’s result.

‘‘I hope I can live up to everyone’s expectations. The Corriedale ward is a rural district of which I have a strong allegiance to and will put forward any rural concerns.’’