Opotiki mayor Lyn Riesterer

Mayoral candidate promises more communication

MAYORAL candidate Lyn Riesterer is urging everyone in the Opotiki district to take part in the upcoming election.

Regardless of whether she wins the race for mayor, Ms Riesterer is adamant that people need to have their say to ensure the community is well represented around the council table.

She would particularly like to see more participation from people down the Coast.

Her aim, should she be elected mayor, is to sit down with the community, in as many places as possible, to learn about their visions of Opotiki in the future.

“We would have that vision in mind when the council does its work,” she said.

“I also would like to see more communication back to the community, about what is happening and where we are going, what we have heard and what we are doing.”

Ms Riesterer said it was important not to have an “us and them” scenario and also to counter misinformation.

“Positivity through community partnership, which is all based on communication.”

She said people were drawn to Opotiki because of the caring, positive and sharing people here.

“Opotiki is one of the most giving communities in New Zealand,” she said.

“And we are now struggling with negative social issues.”

The community was already trying to find solutions to that negativity, she said.

She also plans to fight misinformation, describing attacks on the personal integrity and honesty of the council as “hurtful”.

“We are elected to represent the community as a whole, and it irks me to have your integrity and honesty – personal and that of the council – doubted,” she said.

Mrs Riesterer has a long association with Opotiki.

Although born in Invercargill and living there until she was seven, she said the family visited Opotiki often.

“We travelled to Opotiki every second year, it was two-and-a-half days each way,” she said.

“We stayed for six weeks of the Christmas holidays.”

Opotiki was where her mother, Josie Kelly, was from and to Ms Riesterer and her two siblings it was “absolute paradise”.

The family moved to Auckland when she was seven, allowing visits to Opotiki every school holidays.

In 1971, they moved to the town permanently when her father, Don, gained a job teaching physical education at Opotiki College.

The family soon became involved with local politics with her father first becoming a councillor, then serving as mayor of the district for 12 years. Her brother, Bryan, was also a councillor.

Ms Riesterer returned to New Zealand in 1999 after 10 years in England.

With a background in secondary school teaching, like her father, she worked as a physical education teacher from 1981 to 2017 with her last teaching job being at Opotiki College.

She said in 2006 she went to her father and told him she was thinking of standing for council but he told her she hadn’t been home long enough.

Hence, Ms Riesterer waited until 2013, when she was successful, having been on a council-led sport advisory committee in the meantime.

“When you get onto council it’s a whole new learning [experience],” she said.

“You have to learn the speak, a set of rules and regulations, and it’s more complicated than you think.”

Ms Riesterer said that to be a good mayor, you had to be prepared and have experience.

“You are there to advocate on behalf of your community,” she said.

Community involvement was another important part of the job, with the mayor and councillors often being asked to attend meetings or other events.

“My favourite are the citizenship ceremonies,” she said.

“They are exciting. The new citizens have decided to settle in Opotiki and it’s inspiring to hear their stories.”

Ms Riesterer said she enjoyed the respect shown among councillors for one another.

“We have different thoughts and different backgrounds,” she said.

“We discuss and debate, trying to keep what’s best for the community in our mind’s eye.”

There were no dramas and no ill-will among the current councillors.

“Because of that, the community gets much more from our decisions,” Ms Riesterer said.

She considers the current council to be well balanced between male and female, Maori and Pakeha.