Otago Regional Council's youngest councillor has now
become its youngest deputy chairman.
Gretchen Robertson (35), who is in her 10th year as a
councillor, was voted deputy chairwoman unopposed yesterday
at the first regional council meeting of the new triennium.
''It's exciting and daunting at the same time,'' she said.
As expected, former chairman Stephen Woodhead (51) was
re-elected, also unopposed.
Ms Robertson's appointment marks another first. She was
believed to be the youngest woman elected to a regional
council, at age 26 in 2004, and possibly the first regional
councillor to be standing for re-election after just having
had a baby.
A water quality scientist, Ms Robertson has two sons, Angus
(3) and Blake (11 months) who attended the swearing in with
her husband, John Hollows.
Ms Robertson said having the weight of community aspirations
on her shoulders was a big task but she was ready for it.
''It's ever changing. There are constantly new challenges
which makes it exciting.''
Her water science background meant she was looking forward to
helping lead the implementation of the council's water
quality and quantity changes.
''It definitely needs a lot of buy-in from the community.''
She was nominated for the role by former deputy chairman
David Shepherd, who said she had the skills and knowledge for
the position, as well as having the ''environment and people
Mr Woodhead also acknowledged the election of new Dunstan
councillor Gary Kelliher, at 40 the second-youngest
councillor, as helping lower the average age of the
''Your mix of diverse business interests and strong community
links, as well as your young family, will add an element to
the council table that hasn't been there.''
The councillors' ages range from 35 (Cr Robertson) to 71
(Michael Deaker and Louise Croot). The other new Dunstan
councillor, Graeme Bell, was also attending his first council
Mr Woodhead told the new council much of the legislation
governing the council's work had changed, or was in the
process of changing, so it would present a significant
''We'll need to put more effort into ensuring everyone
understands the legislative framework.''
There were also opportunities to partner with local
authorities throughout the country and with the commerce
sector or organisations such as the University of Otago.
''The challenge is to whether we, as council, grasp those
Councillors would need to meet in coming weeks to plan the
strategy for the next three years, setting up the ''platform
for a productive and efficient three years''.
Council chief executive Peter Bodeker welcomed the new
council with an outline of the work it faced in the next
three years, including the implementation of water quality
and quantity plan changes.
''Both will have a significant impact on our constituents.''
The work it would take to link regional and territorial
authority planning documents should also not be
underestimated as the council developed its regional policy
statement, he said.
He believed the council needed to better promote its
activities and help the community better understand the roles
and benefits of the body in both economic development and
The next council meeting will be held on November 6, when
decisions on its committee structure and chairmanships will