Wilson hits the road

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Councillor Stuart Wilson and wife Betty with his first car, a Morris Eight Sport. Photo: Supplied
Councillor Stuart Wilson and wife Betty with his first car, a Morris Eight Sport. Photo: Supplied
Stuart Wilson will not stand for an Ashburton District Council seat in the upcoming local body elections, preferring instead to retire from politics after 12 rewarding years.

Wilson was born in Kirwee and raised in Hinds, where he ran a dairy farm for 49 years with his wife Betty.

He has always had a strong involvement in the community and before becoming an Ashburton district councillor he served on various boards and committees including Federated Farmers provincial president.

“We used to submit to council on the annual plan and used to get frustrated, because they wouldn’t take any notice of farmers,” he said.

The progression into local government seemed a natural choice for man passionate about his region and the farming community.

“I’ve always been interested in politics whether national or international.

Federated Farmers is sort of a political organisation, submitting on behalf of farmers and roads,” Wilson said.

“I was virtually the first councillor south of the Ashburton river for years.”

For people considering standing for council Wilson said it helps to have some life experience and understand meeting procedures.

“I had always been a committee person, I knew meeting procedure, I think that is important, when you go to a council meeting, there is a protocol.

“It is a great advantage to be self-employed or have your own business to go on council because if you have some financial background it gives you an idea on how systems and balance sheets work.”

Although being a councillor could be considered part-time work Wilson says the time involved, with a few days of meetings each week, workshops and board meetings can mean it is more like a full-time job.

“We can spend days and days when we get to the annual plan and long term plan finances, there’s pages of it.”

Wilson also reads every submission presented in a document.

“People put a submission in they expect a councillor to read it, everybody has a slightly different opinion so you should read every submission, then you get the general gist.”

Wilson has a reputation as someone who speaks up and calls a spade a spade, particularly when it comes to the districts roads.

“I didn’t have one burning ambition when I came to council, hopefully I have brought the emphasis on our roads.

“Not many people criticise you to your face, most of the Ashburton council policy gives people a good chance to submit, and if they have something on their chest they can have a go at it through the consultation process.”

Wilson is satisfied with what he has achieved during his 12 years as a councillor.

“What I have achieved is being able to have confidence enough to put the point of view at the council table what people are telling me, I tried to contribute in a positive way.

“It great for your mental ability, it stimulates the brain, if you are going to do the reading, take part in the debate and ask question, it really is mentally stimulating.”

Wilson has enjoyed working with the current councillors and mayor.

“At the Ashburton District Council, we became friends, we’ve got a very good mayor, Neil really works hard, he’s got no favourites at the council table, everybody gets a fair go.”

The decision not to stand again wasn’t easy, but Wilsonseems happy with his choice.

“I’ve had 12 years, I’m 81 so would be 84 in three years and feel I am still able to keep up, if you start to loose your ability to keep up, people would say didn’t he retire when he was going well?”‘

With more time on his hands come October, Wilson will keep taking an interest in his sons farms in Hinds and tinkering on his first car.

Wilson bought the Morris Eight Sport when he was 16, owned it for around five years  courting his future wife Betty in it before selling it.

Through the years he has kept an eye on the car hoping to buy it back, then after over 50  years the owner offered to sell it back to Wilson.

‘‘So it has had four owners and I’ve had it twice, that’s out in the shed so I puddle around with that.’’

‘‘I might buy another one, I love puddling with vehicles and things,’’ he said.

‘‘I will miss the council, I’ll miss being informed and I’ve told myself I’m not going to comment in the paper, you have to bite your tongue and the new councillor will do what they want to do.’’

-By Daniel Tobin

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