Activist new on board

16:00, Dec 15 2009

A 23-year-old computer programmer and grass-roots activist has become the latest recruit for the Eden Albert Community Board.

City Vision representative Rochelle Rees was officially sworn in on Monday at Ferndale House in Mt Albert.

She replaces previous member Ryan Hicks who was automatically stood down for failing to show up without apology to four consecutive board meetings.

Because the vacancy was created by Mr Hicks less than a year before the next local government elections, a byelection is not required.

Last week the board members confidentially debated whether to leave the seat empty or to appoint a new person.

Chairman Christopher Dempsey says following earnest discussion, the board voted in favour of filling the seat.

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"While there was some disagreement, the board voted by a majority to appoint Rochelle," he says.

Councillor Glenda Fryer said the appointment was made to better serve the board.

"We need a person who will work as part of the team, take part of the workload and be part of the interaction with the community," she said.

However councillor Mark Donnelly said because the board had been short a member for some time, the workload had already been picked up by the other members.

"It’s something we have coped with. By the time someone comes on board, they are not going to be up to speed until February or March and we will be winding down in July and August."

He voted against filling the vacancy, but the majority of members voted in favour of it.

"The ward has been let down badly by both the right and left parties. Firstly Elinor Harvey missed most meetings when she moved out of Auckland and then Ryan Hicks missed multiple meetings leading to the vacancy.

"The City Vision majority have taken the opportunity to appoint a party person from outside the ward. Parnell has greater representation than Balmoral or Sandringham, it’s ridiculous," says Mr Donnelly.

Ms Rees was unavailable for comment but her political organisation’s website states her support for environmental protection, public transport, and helping the elderly and those on low incomes through fair water and rates charges.

It says one of the main motivators that led her to stand in the 2007 elections was to improve the channels of communication between youth and local government.

As an animal welfare campaigner she is no stranger to political controversy.

In 2007 she outed her former boyfriend Rob Gilchrist as a police informant who was masquerading as an animal rights activist while last year she engineered a Google search of the word "clueless" to go to Prime Minister John Key’s website.

Central Leader