Mobile - just don't ring or text

Councillors refuse to use cellphones

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 28/12/2012
Mike Ward, Derek Shaw and Gail Collingwood
COLIN SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

HANDS-FREE: Nelson city councillors Mike Ward left, Gail Collingwood and Derek Shaw do not own cellphones.

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In a society which has forced dependence on cars and cellular communications, three city councillors refuse to succumb.

Perhaps they do not know what they are missing, or maybe that is the point.

Councillors Mike Ward, Derek Shaw and Gail Collingwood do not own cellphones, and the first two do not hold a driver's licence. Pedal-power or walking has long been the preferred mode of transport, while email has become the communications mode of choice for all three.

As a former parliamentarian Mr Ward once had a cellphone. An attempt to switch it to a private plan might have worked had he held a driver's licence.

"I went to the store in Nelson to renew the contract but they said I needed photo ID. I said, ‘what do you mean, I was only drinking coffee with you the day before'.

"Because I don't have a licence, I took a clipping of a newspaper article that had a photo of me in it but they wouldn't accept it."

The final blow was when Mr Ward dropped the Blackberry in a puddle, and drowned it.

"I don't find it inconvenient. I'll always stop what I'm doing to talk to people if they want to drop into my studio.

"Because I don't have a cellphone I do what I've done forever - I let people know where I'm going."

The Hardy St studio is where Mr Ward now spends large parts of each day as a jewellery artist and preparing for council. Unlike Mr Shaw, he does have an answering machine on his home phone, but hardly ever clears his messages.

Mr Ward said he never got around to learning to drive.

"I once had a lesson with my mother when I was young but it was a bit chaotic. It wasn't much fun - maybe I was poorly co-ordinated or something.

"My younger brother went to sea and he owned a Morris 8 which he said I could drive, but I just never got around to it."

Mr Shaw chose not to have a cellphone because he does not need one. He said people got by without them before, but accepted they were good for keeping in touch with the children. If his partner did not have one then he probably would.

"Everyone else in the household has one so I figured I don't need one. I spend enough on communications, with two landlines, broadband and facsimile.

"Most people either fax or email me - I prefer email so I can respond in my own time."

Mr Shaw does not drive either. The family car is driven by his partner.

As a student Mr Shaw once held a motorbike licence, but let it lapse.

"I did resolve once to get a licence when there was a particular time I needed one when it proved inconvenient not to have one."

Those were the days of young children. "I decided I'd sit the test in Southland when we were down there on holiday, but when I got there the office was closed for a time and not open until after we were due to leave Invercargill.

"I took that as a sign I could do without it."

He takes their youngest son to athletics at Saxton Field on the tandem pushbike, but on the whole he did not think their children had been too disadvantaged. The elder two do not drive either.

"I admit it would be handy being able to share the drive to and from Invercargill though."

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Mrs Collingwood felt she managed fine without a cellphone, as people seemed to prefer to use email anyway.

"I just felt I could manage without one. I have friends who have one in the event they're needed in an emergency, but they never switch them on. If there was an emergency no-one would be able to contact them."

Mrs Collingwood said she was "not a complete luddite", and rattled off the things she did like about mobile phones, like all the apps.

Tasman district counterparts all had cellphones and all drove a vehicle, which was essential because of the distances involved in getting around the district. Cellphones were also an essential tool in their roles, spokesman Chris Choat said.

- The Nelson Mail

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