Do it our way before it’s done to us
Our regional councillors don’t have anything like the public profile of city councillors. Who are they, where have they come from and why are they serving on the council? Central Community Newspapers regional reporter JIM CHIPP is finding out with regular
There is only one valid gauge of how well holders of public office are doing their jobs, says regional councillor and health board deputy chairman Peter Glensor.
‘‘I have come from a pretty humble background myself and I think it’s important that the powers that be measure their success by how they help or hurt the most vulnerable.’’
After leaving Heretaunga College, Mr Glensor served a term with Volunteer Service Abroad in a remote part of Sarawak, accessible only by plane or boat before studying at Victoria University and theological college in Auckland.
The experience gave him an awareness of another world and of cultural differences.
‘‘It completely changed my life,’’ he said. ‘‘I became interested in aid and development activities.’’
Returning to New Zealand, he attended university and involved himself in the Boys’ Brigade and the Methodist Church in Upper Hutt, which in turn led him into the aid organisation Corso, where he worked for two years.
‘‘ That was a very formative thing for me, because I met people who today are in very prominent roles around the country and was immersed in all this hot debate and discussion – to keep giving people food or to teach them to grow food; trade barriers. It was a hot-bed,’’ he said.
‘‘For me as a young man – 18 or 19 – it was exciting stuff.’’
After Mr Glensor finished university he found himself pulled in different directions.
He attended the World Council of Churches five-yearly assembly in Kenya, and then for five years was a Methodist minister in Masterton
He served as Wellington secretary of the national network of churches for five years, taking responsibility for young people, international affairs, aid and development.
‘‘During that time I did some very exciting stuff with young people. This was all political. I was seeing things. To be involved in the church was to help build a better community. This was how we framed our religious beliefs.’’
In 1987 Mr Glensor became a part-time community worker in the now infamous Pomare Housing New Zealand estate.
The other half of his time was spent working on Treaty of Waitangi issues.
‘‘I had this really interesting double job, and it was during this time we did all that exciting work getting the community house built and setting up a health service.’’
Both the National government of the time, and the Labour Party were very interested in the new service and later primary health organisations were partly modelled on it, he said.
When the Hutt Valley District Health Board was set up in 2001 Mr Glensor was invited to join the board. He was elected to the board in the first election, and has been on it ever since, serving two terms as chairman. He has also served as a city councillor in the meantime and, since 2004 has been a regional councillor.
Last year the Health Minister Tony Ryall co-opted him to serve as deputy chairman of the Capital & Coast District Health Board.
The people of the region need to think hard about how local public services are provided and how their councils can best advocate on their behalf, Mr Glensor said.
‘‘My view is that we need to be proactive in looking at different ways we can organise the region.
‘‘The reality is that one-third of the [country’s] population live in one territorial authority and the other two-thirds live in 76 localities. If we want to be noticed we need to be very focussed in order to press our case.
‘‘We in Wellington need to be singing the same song and singing it together. We have eight territorial authorities [city or district councils] for less than half a million people,’’ he said.
His personal preference would be for two-tier system of representation, with local boards deciding local priorities and an overarching authority collecting rates and making the decisions that make sense to be made regionally.
‘‘My fear is that, if we keep talking, after the next general election, we will end up getting told what to do like they have been in Auckland.
‘‘I’m saying to people ‘let’s do it ourselves before it gets done to us’.’’
Main man: Wellington Regional Council’s economic wellbeing committee chairman Peter Glensor is responsible for public transport, flood management, spatial planning, and economic and business issues.