Departure bittersweet

Wyatt Ryder.
Wyatt Ryder.
When I first left the Otago Daily Times I thought I would never be back. On to new and exciting things.

Then I came back to New Zealand and was asked to come back to journalism, this time in my home patch.

Community reporting is special. It’s like taking the fast lane in becoming an active and recognised member of society.

I can’t walk down the street without meeting people I have dealt with. Give them the old smile, ‘‘g’day’’ and hope they liked what I wrote about them. I am sure not all of them did.

What I have enjoyed even more is sharing my photography with you. Whether a photo was of some real news or a funky bird I saw in the street, my editor, Graham, always found a place for it.

For the last 10 months I have strived to do my job fairly and accurately. I like to think I have done an all-right job of that.

What I am saddest to leave behind is the Waitaki District Council. Picking up my first meeting agenda I was expecting a world of tedium. It turns out there are all kinds of interesting tidbits and secrets tucked away in those things.

I have enjoyed my return, but this was never meant to be a long-term gig for me.

I am sad I will not be around for all of the juicy decisions on the issues I have covered this year. What will happen to water fluoridation, the infamous ‘‘transformation’’, or those pesky district plan overlays? At least the hospital drama is mostly done now.

My departure is especially bittersweet considering I was named best junior news journalist at the New Zealand Community Newspaper Awards two weeks ago, but it does add some dramatic flair to my departure.

Now the ink has dried on my last byline at the Oamaru Mail, I have some favours to ask of you, dear reader.

Call your mayor. Call your councillors. Talk to your MP. All of their numbers are online and you can call them at any time. If you have a problem then let them know about it.

Council meetings have dedicated time for public forum. Sign up and speak at those, if you are brave enough. These are your elected officials and they have an obligation to represent you, or at least hear you out.

Send in formal complaints. Submit on documents. It creates an actual paper trail of your concerns, which means they have to consider it. Then pesky reporters like me can hold them to it.

It’s not just journalists who can submit official information requests. You can find templates for an Official Information Act or Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act request online if you want. These are easy and (mostly) free to do.

Most importantly, ask awkward questions. And if all of those things fail, remember that the media is here to give you a voice.