* BayBuzz’s roving reporter, Elizabeth Sisson, recently caught up with the three new faces on Napier City Council. Her first interview was with Maxine Boag, (Nelson Park ward).

Maxine Boag is one of two councillors representing the new Nelson Park Ward. Described by a resident of her ward as “a scrapper,” Boag was a major player in the recent successful effort to restore voting wards to Napier, taking the argument to the Local Government Commission after the Napier Council would not approve the ward system. The commission did, on the grounds that a ward system “would enhance the effectiveness of representation of communities of interest in Napier.” Now Boag’s goal is to make the ward system work for the people she represents. “I want to be known and recognised by the people in the ward as a ward councillor who is there for them.”

Boag’s profile in the ward is high already: she has been active in the ward for more than a decade as a teacher, community advocate, activist and editor of a local quarterly newspaper. Pastors of two Samoan churches endorsed her candidacy for council and recommended her to their congregations. She expanded this base prior to the October election, when she spent six weeks going door-to-door in the ward, which encompasses Maraenui, Napier South, Onekawa South, parts of Pirimai, Marewa and Awatoto. “People were absolutely amazed to meet someone who wanted to be on council,” she said, noting most of them had never met a councillor.

Over the coming year, Boag plans to build “a strong, healthy relationship” with ward residents and with the key organisations in the ward. She wants to develop a mechanism for consulting with them on what they see as major issues and on council proposals, such as the investment of $15 million in the city museum. “Who is that for?” she asks, pointing out that many residents in the ward would not or could not afford to visit the museum.

Boag identified poverty as the city’s major issue, with the annual income of Napier residents $5000 less than the national average. Lack of affordable housing and the conditions in some of the council-owned flats also concern her. She approaches her new job from a social welfare point of view, and has been appointed deputy chair of council’s Community Development Committee. She is realistic about the need to work co-operatively with all Napier’s councillors.

“The city has been responsibly well-managed. It’s a beautiful place and council has done lots of things to enhance that,” Boag said. “Council spending has been prudent and I hope that will continue.”

– Elizabeth Sisson

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