Kelly Stratford - Swapping Heels For Gumboots In A Days Work

Aug. 4, 2022, 6:43 p.m.

Far North District Councillor, Kelly Stratford (Ngāpuhi, Ngāi Te Rangi), spends her days tackling pressing community issues such as infrastructure, whilst wearing heels, but always has a pair of gumboots in her car for traipsing through wastewater treatment plants, investigating roading issues or stormwater site visits. 

She was elected from the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa ward and chairs the Regulatory and Compliance committee, the District Licensing Committee and sits on all of council’s other committees. Stratford is also the council representative on Sport Northland, Disability Action Group and Taumarere River Liaison Group. She is also a trustee for her marae, Waikare Marae in the Bay of Islands.

Tautīnei asked her what her aspirations are for the 2022/2023 elections. 

"My first aspiration is that more people get enrolled, and are interested in what the council does. That they vote and post off their voting forms in time or drop into one of the council service centers. And with John Carter retiring, I decided a couple years back that I would stand to be the mayor of the Far North. I see lots of opportunity in the changes that local government faces, and feel our district needs a leader that is open to real conversation on the future we face. I know how to work with families, communities and stakeholders to achieve positive outcomes" said Stratford.

Stratford grew up mainly in Kawakawa. Her father was a builder so her family moved around often. They also lived up north at Waitiki Landing for a while, Tauranga Bay and Auckland. She attended Te Kao Area School, Kaeo Primary, Oranga Primary, Bailey Road Primary, Kawakawa Primary, Bay of Islands Intermediate, Bay of Islands College and Edgewater College in Auckland. 

Some of her best childhood memories are school holidays with her nana and grandad. The panelvan loaded up for the drive, towing the boat behind. 

"Our faces were covered in dust by the time we got to our destination. And what would be a quick boat ride down the river, might be longer because someone got the tide wrong, so we would wait around at the landing. Playing games, having a picnic lunch. Really enjoyed taking the same route, through the Waikare gorge, to Rawhiti and camping there over summer with my family and cousins coming too" reminisced Stratford.

Some of her favourite things about the Kawakawa and the Bay of Islands District are the people. Stratford loves the Kawakawa Memorial Library Museum and the history that has been accumulated there. She often goes there for peace and quiet, or to research.

Tautīnei asked Stratford what inspired her to run for mayor. 

"It’s because I care a lot about the people and everything that makes the Far North a great place to live. Our beautiful beaches and swimming holes, our bush walks and reserves, our sporting facilities, the unsealed and sealed roads, the traffic, the wastewater, drinking water and of course our stormwater we seem to be seeing a lot of lately! I would really like to put my leadership and interpersonal skills to good use and really turn a corner on delivering projects in a timely fashion. Lifting the standard of service, and bringing local back to local government" said Straford.

Her top three goals and aspirations in terms of community projects include housing, climate change and more community-led events. 

"Our district has a major infrastructure housing deficit, we need more homes, and we simply don’t have the wastewater and water capacity to accommodate. There are two community housing projects, one in Kaikohe and the other in Kawakawa that will not only help address the housing need, but also allow for development through successfully receiving the Housing Acceleration Fund. All my fingers are crossed for this."

Tautīnei asked Stratford for more detail around her climate change ambitions.

"Council adopted a climate change roadmap with goals laid out, we need to take action on them. Some of the tasks are small - some big. We need to work with the government and communities to identify a starting point for adaptation, but we, hapū, iwi and community, need to be well resourced for this (from central government), we can’t keep putting rates up. Out of this will come community led projects" said Stratford.

Stratford explained that community-led events, projects and solutions are her ultimate goal. 

"They get results, and through all the social interaction, build relationships and benefit wellbeing. The Pokapu spillway in Ōtīria is an example of a project that since the solutions have come from the people that live there, is making great progress" said Stratford.

Tautīnei was uncertain how Stratford managed to find time for herself. We asked her what her favourite Sunday activity was, in hope that she did fit time in somewhere.

"Hiking! I love getting my boots on and hitting the gnarliest trails. Connecting with nature and discovering new sights" she replied.

From corporate heels, to gumboots, hiking shoes and back again, Stratford seems to have it all covered, complete with a message for the little girl at primary school, standing her ground, reading about inspiring role models such as herself.

"Become a master of the things that are challenging. Don’t let anyone tell you, you can’t do something" said Stratford.

The nomination period runs from the 15th of July to the 12th of August 2022. Voting is held between the 16th of September to the 8th of October with results announced on Friday 14th of October 2022.

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