Many of the things that matter most in the area where you live are a result of decisions made by the local board. Parks, playgrounds, footpaths, cycleways, and council facilities are either provided by or advocated for by the local board. Most Beacon readers are in the area managed by the Whau Local Board.
About half the Whau board representatives are new after the last election. The only full-time role, and by far the most visible, is that of chair. Tracy Mulholland was chair last term and then ran successfully for Whau ward Councillor. Kay Thomas is now on the local board and the chairperson for this term. With the board now settled in, we thought it was time to find out more about our new chair and what her vision is for the Whau.
Kay grew up in Golden Bay. She is of Te Atiawa descent – an iwi which extended from Taranaki to the Marlborough Sounds, and included Wellington. Her family’s marae is the Waikawa Marae in Picton. Kay enjoys gardening, reading, travelling and spending time with her partner Murray and her family.
Kay has a background in education and had some exposure to politics through her involvement in the PPTA. She initially took some persuading to stand for election, but is now excited by her new role and the opportunity to serve the community in this way. She is a new face and brings a fresh perspective to Whau politics.
Well-known in education circles having spent more than thirty years in the sector, Kay has taught in secondary schools around Auckland, including Auckland Girls’ Grammar where she was HoD for English, Arts and Languages; more recently she taught at Kelston Girls’, preceded by a role as Deputy Principal at Mt Roskill Grammar for 11 years.
Her involvement in education has taught her how to bring people on board and work with them in a collaborative way. This is a strength that she brings to the board as chair.
Kay continues to volunteer four hours a week with Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB). She loves helping people and says the CAB work helps her to know what issues people face. The most common need she’s found is helping people interact with government departments. Now that people are being pushed to do things online, if they cannot access the internet or don’t know how then they struggle to interact successfully with agencies. The low participation in the last census highlighted the issues of internet access!
Council projects always take longer than people expect, and often span two or more board terms. Kay has inherited several that are in process and need to be seen through to completion. The big one which is still in the early stages is the $100m+ swimming pool for the Whau area and needs land acquisition to progress.
A project Kay would particularly like to advance is the linking of the Te Whau Pathway, which has the potential to enhance road safety. For instance, if children were able to take the pathway to school instead of being driven, it would reduce the number of cars on the road. Construction of the $44 million New Lynn to Avondale Shared Pathway has started which will open up access through the heart of the Whau area. It will connect to the Waterview shared pathway giving a safe, off street route to both Onehunga and the CBD.
Kay is keenly aware that some suburbs are not represented by local board members living in the area. These include Kelston, Green Bay, Blockhouse Bay and New Windsor. There are four representatives who live in Avondale, and Kay wants to ensure that all areas receive equal consideration across the Whau. For example, there is a major playground planned for Archibald Park in Kelston that is being built to benefit Kelston families.
It’s not just the big projects that impact people’s lives though. Infrastructure as simple as safe footpaths are very important to locals and Kay wants the Board to get out and see the problems for themselves. Avondale’s ‘slippery bricks’ issue has had a lot of discussion, but every footpath is important to users.
Kay comments, “These past few months have been a steep learning curve, and the chair role has necessitated me learning really quickly across everything”.
Her personal vision statement for the Whau is “To create positive, constructive relationships within the board that work well for the communities within the Whau”. This aligns with her belief that people are at the heart of all that is important within the responsibilities of a local board, and as long as the focus remains on people their priorities will be in order.