Rakiura Cr steps down

Southland District councillor Bruce Ford has decided not to stand again in the 2022 Local Body Elections.

AFTER more than 40 years, the Stewart Island community will need to find another voice to advocate for them.

Stewart Island/Rakiura councillor Bruce Ford has been in local politics since 1977 but decided this term would be his last at the Southland District Council. He will stand down in October.

There were a mix of emotions – while he was relieved to step down from council to focus on his family and personal projects, he was also proud of everything the community had achieved.

“Stewart Island requires some new blood, really [at council level]. Someone with fresh ideas as they probably have had enough of mine,’’ he said.

“As time goes by, everything you do becomes very bureaucratic, my patience got probably thinner.’’

Mr Ford (76) moved to the island in 1968 to work in the paua and fishing industry. He never left and raised his family on the island.

His involvement with local politics came as a natural pathway for him, he said.

“I have a theory that you can’t complain unless you are prepared to have a go. So because I tend to complain a lot, I did not have another choice.’’

The years had taught him that to make things happen he had to work within legal and bureaucratic frameworks, which could take time, determination and a good network.

The community had achieved a lot over those decades, and among the highlights was the new Rakiura Museum, the implementation of the visitor levy and the foundation of the island’s existing power station in 1988.

The power station transformed the community as it ended the dependence on “noisy and smelly” household diesel generators.

“This was a big project for a small community but 30 years later we still benefit from it.”

Mr Ford now hoped to have more time to visit his children who live abroad and focus on his project of building a senior cottage on the island.

Land was bought by the Stewart Island Seniors Cottage Trust years ago, but he wanted to focus on finding nearly $1 million to get the project off the ground.

Many older people living on the island were struggling or needed to leave the island because they could not afford the island’s living costs, he said.

“I want to have more time to do my own things and I need to get some traction on this project which is very important or me — or at least leave a succession plan if I am not here.”

With 45 years of local government service, Mr Ford is one of the longest serving councillors in New Zealand, just behind Grey District Deputy Mayor Doug Truman, who had 48 years’ service.

While he believed his time had ended, he urged people from his community to come forward to fill the role he has held for more than 40 years.

“Over many years we had the real possibility of losing our representation at the council and I don’t believe people could get a true voice from further afield. It needs to be someone from the community who understands the island and knows the day today there.”