Torrid reception for prospective trust board member

Harry Andrew still wants to be a member of the Oamaru Whitestone Civic Trust, despite a torrid reception at its board meeting on Monday night.

Yesterday, the Oamaru man, who is involved in heritage tourism through the Oamaru Steam and Rail's train trips and who does volunteer work in the historic precinct and harbour area, believed he would be accepted as a member, although he still had to have that confirmed in writing.

Mr Andrew was one of about 50 people who last year applied for membership of the trust. Most had been approved by the board, but Mr Andrew was summoned to appear before it to explain his reasons for wanting to be a member.

He did that on Monday night, taking former board member Ian Little along as an advocate because he feared the reception he would receive.

Yesterday, when contacted, Mr Andrew said the reception was ‘‘very nasty and inflammatory''. Both he and Mr Little were personally attacked verbally by some board members, he said.

At one stage, when Waitaki Mayor Alec Familton, who is a board appointee on behalf of the Waitaki District Council, tried to intervene, he was told to sit down or he could resign (from the board). His objections were overridden by other board members.

‘‘It feels like the trust has been taken over by a group who want to control the whole system. They are looking after a small group instead of representing the community, as they are supposed to,'' Mr Andrew said.

As a result of the reception he and Mr Little received, along with the atmosphere he experienced at the board meeting, Mr Andrew said he would stand as a member of the board in next year's elections.

‘‘We need growth [in the historic area], more go-ahead, not knockers,'' he said.

Mr Familton said there was an exchange of views, but he did not want to comment on the atmosphere nor what happened at the meeting.

However, in general terms, he supported the membership of anyone who had signed the application form that supported the objectives and aims of the trust and was nominated and seconded by a trust member.

Mr Little reflected Mr Andrew's comments about the meeting and said he was appalled by the attitude of some board members.

‘‘I went along as an advocate for Mr Andrew, but they [some members] ended up personally attacking me,'' he said.

Board member Michael Bolstridge, who is a council appointee, described the meeting as ‘‘like an inquisition''.

Mr Andrew was ‘‘a substantial member of the community'' who had made a contribution to the historic area, particular through steam and rail.

‘‘Yet tourists from overseas are encouraged to become members - no-one checks their background as to whether they are criminals or terrorists. They are accepted without question,'' he said.

Board chairman Ken Mitchell said he would not discuss individual applications for membership in public, but did confirm Mr Andrew's application had been approved.

The board was working through the process of considering membership applications.

‘‘If we are left alone to do that then it will turn out to be a nonevent,'' he said.

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