Bigham has lowest attendance

MATT RILKOFF
Last updated 05:00 12/02/2013

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Nobody was as shocked as South Taranaki district councillor Bonita Bigham to learn her official meeting attendance rate is the lowest among her colleagues.

Since October 2010 council has held 165 different meetings with the Mayor Ross Dunlop attending 111 of these for a 92 per cent attendance rate of required meetings.

At the other end of the scale is Ms Bigham who would appear to have an attendance rate at required meetings of just 73 per cent.

"I got a bit of a fright about that myself," she said. "But about half of those are where I have had to stand aside for conflicts of interest or perceived conflicts of interests and they have been marked as apologies," she said.

These conflicts have come from involvements with community and Maori groups, she said.

As well as being a councillor Ms Bigham is also on the Opunake High School board of trustees, a representative for the Te Maruata National Council of Maori elected members, is Waiokura Marae and Reserves Trust secretary and trustee, a Ngati Tu 22D farm trust secretary and trustee, a Kaponga Soccer Club committee member and a Nga Hapu o Ngaruahine Iwi Inc trustee. She is also the managing director of Taniko Communications.

She said the only reason she would not turn up to meetings is if they were rescheduled and clashed with work commitments or if she was sick.

"People in the community seem to know me and know how to get hold of me. Whether it's in the supermarket, on the street or on the sports field they know I am a councillor and say ‘hey, I've got an issue with the council'. The fact we don't always get to attend meetings doesn't always negate our effectiveness as a councillor," she said.

Councillor Kelly Judkins has physically attended the fewest meetings of all her colleagues, appearing at 45 of the 61 she was required to attend.

Ms Judkins said she was not able to talk to the Taranaki Daily News when contacted yesterday but sent a short statement by email.

"I take my role as a councillor very seriously, unfortunately, due to the nature of my full-time position as a funeral director (which is a response driven role, requiring assistance and knowledge given to families as needed), this has affected my attendance to some meetings.

"Currently, I am considering my future and the impact of different roles in the community. Anything I give to the community I live in is genuine, and certainly I work hard to give as much as I can in all roles."

Real estate agent and councillor Mike Powell is the best meeting attendee at the council, getting to 97 per cent of those meetings he is required to attend.

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"I take the responsibilities very seriously and bend over backwards to make sure I can attend meetings and workshops," he said.

Mr Dunlop said he was happy with the commitment councillors gave to the role and that meeting attendance was not the only measure of effectiveness. "Sitting at meetings is important but getting out and working with the community is even more important," he said.

- Taranaki Daily News

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