If Meredith Akuhata-Brown was to believe the many people who have told her what she should or shouldn’t be saying, doing or asking over the past six years, she ‘isn’t the kind of person who should be running for Mayor’. Luckily, she doesn’t believe those people – the kind of people who have become all too comfortable in a system that, as we can see (if we let ourselves), hasn’t worked out that well for a very large proportion of our community or for our environment.
That isn’t to say that Meredith doesn’t listen however; to the contrary, she is all about The People. She does the reading, she has the kōrero and she is very good at asking the questions that people don’t necessarily want to hear.
Meredith is famed for her verbosity; a natural storyteller who speaks from her heart. Her responses to Carol’s five questions are to the contrary, remarkably concise. Meredith is quite proud of that fact.
Carol: Who is your greatest personal influence as you embark on this election campaign?
Meredith: My mother, Marewakiterangi (Maria) Waimaria. She was a fighter. Her life, particularly when she was raising her small children, was extremely difficult yet she endured in ways that I have come to admire and to be inspired by.
Carol: Tell me something about yourself that might surprise other people.
Meredith: I have a love for music across a wide spectrum. I was raised on classical music and opera and I love that music to this day. I played cornet in the Salvation Army Band and double bass in the high school orchestra.
Carol: Name one person, dead or alive, who you’d like to walk on the beach and have a korero/conversation with.
Meredith:Princess Te Puia.I am only just beginning to get a handle on how she lived her life and I’m hungry to learn more. Also children. I love to sit down with the kids at Kaiti School and listen to what they’ve got to say, what’s on their minds. Its very grounding for me.
Carol: The trait I most dislike in myself is….
Meredith:Verbosity! I know I sometimes say many more words than I need to before I nail the point of my conversation – I’m working on it.
Carol: How do you relax?
Meredith:Walking, listening to music, reading books. I read a lot. Mostly non-fiction and most likely to be related to social justice issues. On holiday I can binge on criminology which has always fascinated me.
Carol: Young people are becoming more vocal with their concerns about the future impact of climate change. Does the Council have a role in responding to this?
Meredith: Absolutely and definitely. Council has a significant role in their future in relation to natural resources, infrastructure, the kind of community they will raise their families in and grow old in. We MUST engage with them and pay genuine attention to what they are saying.
Carol: Your task is to write the Job Description for Mayor of Gisborne. What are your 3 most important Key Performance Indicators and how could they be measured?
KPI 1. Leading excellent communication to enhance community engagement.
Citizen survey (both paper-based and online) demonstrates that more people understand the role of mayor and council and its relevance to their world.
Increasing voter turnout indicates improved relevance of local government to the citizens we serve.
KPI 2: Ability to Influence through attention to relationships
External – there is evidence of enhanced relationships with central government resulting in optimisation of investment in the region especially in relation to infrastructure development projects such as rail. We need to advocate for contracts to be with local service providers as much as possible.
Inter-regional collaboration, especially with similar- sized councils is evidenced by enhanced learning from successful initiatives of other councils.
Internal – We know more about who is in our community through relationships with organisations like the Multicultural Tairawhiti Council, youth groups etc.
We clearly articulate our vision for the region to the extent that everyday citizens are having conversations which reflect that people know what that vision is and what’s going on to achieve it.
KPI 3: Enhanced citizen happiness
Evidence based methodology is used to track and enhance the overall happiness of the people who live here.