Battle for the environment chair
Who would you want as the ES chair?
Two women, Ali Timms and Jan Riddell, will tomorrow battle for the chairmanship of Southland's regional council, Environment Southland.
Incumbent Ms Timms, who controversially pretended to be the fictional "Ruby" when grilling Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt about the Auckland to Bluff yacht race on regional television, wants to improve water quality.
Mrs Riddell, who was defeated by Ms Timms in a vote for the chairmanship last term,wants transparency, and she thinks she can do a better job.
Terri Russell and Lauren Hayes talk to the women at the centre of the battle.
Poll: Protecting natural resources is the lifeblood of councillor Jan Riddell.
She has her fingers in several pies but the re-elected Environment Southland councillor now has her eyes on the chairmanship again.
Mrs Riddell was a regional councillor in the early 1990s but after a 15-year break she returned last term to tackle resource management and water quality issues.
She battled Ali Timms for the chairmanship last term and lost eight votes to four but is determined to give it another shot.
A passionate Browns-based sheep farmer and hydrologist, Mrs Riddell wants the council to be more open about water quality issues in Southland, both the good and the bad.
"We're not getting the message out there.
"Some of the stuff is not good news but people need to know about it. There are things that are improving too," she said.
Mrs Riddell helps run the 400-hectare sheep farm with her husband, Dave, alongside an extensive list of other commitments.
She is chairwoman of the Waiau Working Party; part-time planner at the Waiau Fisheries and Wildlife Habitat Enhancement Trust; local government representative of the New Zealand Conservation Authority; committee member of the Nature Heritage Fund; secretary of the Forest Hill Foundation; and an Environment Southland councillor.
Mrs Riddell has also chaired the Southland Conservation Board and Environment Southland committees.
"I've chaired a few things and been on different committees and observe how they operate and how they operate best.
"I'd like to think I can run the council better," she said.
Holding a public meeting in Invercargill about water quality issues, such as the status of the Waituna Lagoon, would be on the top of her to-do list as chairwoman.
The council was currently reluctant to inform the public of water quality issues, she said.
Many councillors were not involved with water management and it was important to utilise the various skills of each councillor.
"There's a real opportunity to make better use of the people around the table," Mrs Riddell said.
She will battle Ms Timms for the Environment Southland chairmanship at the inaugural meeting of the new council on Wednesday .
Water quality No 1 priority for Timms
As she sets her sights on another term as Environment Southland chairwoman, Ali Timms has vowed to continue improving water quality.
Ms Timms, who has been on the regional council for 12 years, made her debut as Environment Southland chairwoman in 2010.
Now aiming for a second term at the helm, Ms Timms is determined to continue the fight to improve water quality in Southland.
While there had been some progress, balancing water quality with rural development was still a top priority for the council, she said.
"I think we can balance that intensification and get improved water quality, and that's a real challenge, but I think people have got their heads around that now."
For the past six years, she has lived in Lumsden, working as a physiotherapist in the town.
Physiotherapy might seem vastly different from environmental regulation, but Ms Timms identified similarities between her two roles.
"Physio's all about people, the council's all about people and that's what I like - getting out there and meeting Southlanders and hearing what they have to say."
She first put her hand up for council because of a longstanding interest in the environment, but she also has a family history of agriculture.
Raised on a North Island dairy farm, she names her mother, who farmed during the war and shared farming duties with her husband, as one of her role models.
Ms Timms said Environment Southland's involvement with Waituna Lagoon was the work she was most proud of during the past three years.
The lagoon ran the risk of flipping into a toxic state but a combined effort between the Waituna community and the council helped improve this, she said.
However, her first term as chairwoman was not without controversy.
Ms Timms narrowly kept the role after she used an assumed identity to question Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt about the A2B yacht race on television.
She would not discuss the "Ruby" scandal yesterday, but said she had learnt a lot during her term as chairman.
Ms Timms will stand against Jan Riddell for the Environment Southland chairmanship at the inaugural meeting of the new council tomorrow.
AT A GLANCE
Unlike mayors of district and city councils who are elected by the public, regional council chairs are chosen by the councillors.
The 12 Environment Southland councillors, including those running for chair, will vote for their preferred candidate at the inaugural meeting tomorrow.
Earlier this month, a Southland Times survey of councillors showed Peter Jones, Grant Hubber, Neville Cook, Nicol Horrell and Ross Cockburn intended to vote for Ali Timms, while Robert Guyton and Rowly Currie were voting for Jan Riddell.
Lloyd McCallum, Marion Miller, and Maurice Rodway were undecided or did not comment.
Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said councillors would determine before voting how the chairmanship would be decided if there was a tie, but it could come down to drawing straws.
Regional council chairs can also be removed by the council, unlike district or city council mayors.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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