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Election results in more of the same for Motueka ward

October 14th
[by David Armstrong]

Voting results from Saturday's local body elections showed that Motueka Ward residents want more of the same from their three council representatives.

But those supporting the injection of younger and more challenging ideas through 24-year-old unsuccessful candidate Tara Forde are unhappy that controversy around her court conviction for cannabis possession put people off voting for her to extend her strong work within the community.

The elections returned a clear decision to retain the three sitting councillors, Jack Inglis, Barry Dowler and Eileen Wilkins. All garnered over 2200 votes, well clear of fourth placed Tara Forde who received under 1700 votes.

Tara had been a pro-active member on the Motueka Community Board for the past three years and had earned the respect and support of her fellow board members and observers of board activities, as well as of many in the community who saw how much practical advocacy work she did within a raft of community groups, ranging from the obvious demographic of younger people through to Grey Power.

Early this year she was charged by police for possession of a small amount of cannabis, and it was during the election campaign that news of her pending conviction became common knowledge through reports in the Nelson Mail. It is known that many comments have been circulating Motueka since then as to her suitability for the role of councillor, or even as a community worker.

As reported by Motueka Online (read here), Tara addressed this issue directly when asked about it at the Grey Power-hosted 'Meet the Candidates' meeting last month. She said that she was young and sometimes makes mistakes (such as this one), but tells the truth. She was sorry about having been a bad role model, and has openly and honestly talked with young people about her mistake.

It must be noted that each of the successful candidates have also played big roles in the community, according to their interests, and the town should be thankful for their contributions over the years. However, it is a great shame that these elections did not take advantage of the opportunity to advance a voice more representative of the younger people of our community and more in tune with the environmental and social challenges we face in the coming years.

Now unemployed, Tara is reportedly contemplating various options for the future, both here and overseas, but hopefully will not be lost to political and community life.

Comment by Ron Sharp:
[Posted 14 October 2010]

What a disappointment that Motueka did not want a young councillor to do battle for our rights in the Tasman District Council. What a champion Tara Forde has been in last term's Community Board, especially, over Motueka River water and how tireless in her attendance and support of many community groups from our Youth Council to Family Service Centre.

Some questioned her status on volunteer community committees. the Charities Commission states that only those with criminal convictions of dishonesty are banned from positions of office on committees. Being convicted of having two joints of cannabis in her home, according to the presiding judge, is a minor offence. This is supported by his impostion of the minimum fine of a mere $100. Most of us have been fined $150+ for traffic offences.

During the election campaign I heard far too many righteous people condemn her, as if she were a criminal. I have found her to be a truly dedidated, vibrant, thinking person capable of debate with those with many years of representation. We missed a good opportunity for our development as a town. A pity and a shame!

Comment by Johny O'Donnell:
[Posted 16 October 2010]

I agree Ron, I'm also very disappointed at the result and the impact such a minor offence had on her campaign. Tara has been a great mentor for myself and many other young people of Motueka, she has worked hard and advised us based on her mistakes. Telling us to make wise choices and not put your public profile in jeopardy over bad decisions.

I have always found her a careful listener, constructive, hardworking and very very community minded. Having Tara elected would've balanced our representation a lot more. I noticed Richmond and Golden Bay managed to get at least one community minded representative so why couldn't Motueka?

It seems our town is still stuck in the past of prejudice and believe our representatives are supposed to be perfect. The fact that Tara was unfortunately caught with two joints does not make her a bad person and certainly should not have lost her an election - but it did!

Motueka made their choice (well actually only just over 40% did) and now they can expect more of the same - losing our most valuable assets, increasing debt and poor financial and environment management! We can only hope three more years of this will wake our town to the reality!

Comment by Tom Watkins:
[Posted 17 October 2010]

Based on what I'd seen and heard of Tara Forde I was confident she would be elected, and I am shocked that she was not. We seem, collectively, to have missed a splendid opportunity to inject new life into our council representation, develop a future leader, and role-model for other younger people the kind of response-abilities they are capable of. I hope she will continue her interest in the development of this town and the area, confident that sooner or later good sense will prevail.

While I'm always grateful for the goodwill and service-to-others demonstrated by anyone who cares to put the time and effort into civic and community affairs, we are as the editor suggests, destined the get what we've always got through doing what communities most often do: elect those who represent the interests of the status quo.

Whatever Tara Forde's next initiatives, she can count on my support.

Comment by Joanna Santa Barbara:
[Posted 18 October 2010]

Tara is the real thing! A young, vibrant, creative politician who cares deeply about the future of this community. She is astonishingly well-read, does her homework on the issues, listens to people, and stands up for what she believes, even when it's disturbing to the status quo. It's we, the electorate who have made the mistake.

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