Parkinson’s Disease has put a premature end to Redstone’s career as a Hastings District Councillor. 

A byelection for the Heretaunga ward position she’s left vacant is imminent and, rightly or wrongly, most assumed we’d seen the last of Redstone in public life. We’ll have more on that in a minute.

First, though, Redstone wants you to know what kind of woman she is. There are a few personal anecdotes that Ann Redstone feels sum up her decades of environmental advocacy.

“I moved to an acre property [on the seafront at Haumoana] with not a tree on it really and I decided to plant trees,’’ Redstone said. “This guy came past me one day – dear old chap – and said, ‘Excuse me young lady, you can’t grow trees on the beach’. And I thought, can you not? Just watch me.

“So for seven years because of him I bucket-watered because I was determined. “He did come past about 10 years later and said to me, ‘I take my hat off to you young lady and I thought you were the reason actually’.

“Do not challenge me.’’

Brought up by a “very, very capable’’ solo mother, Redstone was never going to be a pushover.

“In those days there weren’t many solo mothers and I think she taught us to be very independent and self-sufficient, so I can’t stand injustice,’’ said Redstone. Which is what eventually got her interested in environmental issues.

“When I moved to Haumoana, 41 years ago, we were down on the beach making sand castles with my, would have been, 5-year-old and 3-year-old and they were decorating them with these lovely pink and blue strips,’’ Redstone said. “And I thought, what’s that? Then I realised it was panty liner strips.

“That’s when I discovered that our sewerage was just being sent out to sea raw and that was my foray into politics if you like. “We went to a Haumoana Ratepayers and Residents meeting and we formed a group called Hawke’s Bay Clean Sea Coalition.’’

Redstone would go on to help form other lobby groups over the years, like Walking on Water (WOW), which she chaired for seven years, and finally sit on council.

What she realised from the start is that you need to show you’re serious and to take people with you. “Otherwise we’d just be seen as a little band of hippies.’’

She proudly boasts that she’s had 42 jobs in her life. Not because she was unemployable, but because she always wanted to learn more and to meet more people.

Sales were at the heart of most of the jobs and those skills definitely helped in politics.

“You have to sell things, you have to lobby. That’s one of the first things I learned when I got to the council table,’’ said Redstone. “You have to have people with you on your waka, otherwise you’re just wasting your breath.

“Sometimes I stood alone on things, but I always thought, where’s your common sense? A lot of it’s about empathy and understanding.’’

Parkinson’s is a debilitating disease, but Redstone doesn’t want anyone’s pity. “I would rather be respected for my achievements like raising awareness about the raw sewage issue resulting in a joint committee being formed and a waste treatment plant being built at east Clive,’’ she said.

“Then 14 years on WOW lobbying for councils to protect the coast which has, to date, resulted in two significant rock revetment walls being built along the Cape Coast and a New Zealand-leading coastal hazards strategy being worked up by our three councils over the past nine years.’’

Redstone recognises there are climate change sceptics on council and in the community, which is why she’s always steered her advocacy towards what’s best for people and the environs they live in.

“I loved the job. I really did. I’m sorry I can’t be there anymore. It brasses me off because I needed to be there. I’m not finished.’’

So that means one last sales pitch.

The Regional Coastal Hazards Strategy is still to be adopted by the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council. Redstone recognises there remain impediments to that happening, but is hopeful it will finally be approved in August.

“I will be watching and if, I should say when, the Regional Council adopts the strategy there is a facility in the new terms of reference to have an appointed person,’’ Redstone said.

“Well, up goes my hand, because I’ll say to Sandra [Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst] I can do one committee and that’s my passion one. I’d love to be on that committee.’’

If not, then Redstone will accept her time in politics is done.

She hasn’t always secured “the wins’’ she hoped for, but never for want of trying.

“I never saw myself as a councillor, as such. My kids used to call me ‘Chancellor’,’’ said Redstone. “I thought of myself as an advocate for the community, which we all should be because we’re elected by the community.

“I sometimes wondered if I was any good at governance, as I seemed to always be fighting battles for people, which I was very happy to do.’’

Public Interest Journalism funded NZ On Air

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1 Comment

  1. Councillors and Council staff should take Ann Redstone as a role model for how to serve a community. On my emails she always responded.

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