Jacoby Poulain: Our paths can change

By Jacoby Poulain

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I'm not sure about you, but I'm the type of person who likes to know where I'm headed. I need vision, I need a plan and I need it now. I'm quickly learning though that life's not always that clear-cut and straightforward.

I was born and raised in Hastings. I was raised by good parents who built in Flaxmere during the early days. Dad is Dutch and though he loves Flaxmere, true to Dutch thriftiness, he kicks himself for not building in Havelock North where land values are now comparatively higher.

Although I love Havelock too, I'm glad I grew up in Flaxmere as it's helped shape who I am today.

I am not perfect, but on the road of life and learning the why, when, where and how as I go.

After five tumultuous years of study at Otago University wrapped up in sleeping bags on the flat couch and tramping through the cold to class, I successfully graduated. I ventured on to become admitted to the bar as a barrister and solicitor.

By then, however, an epiphany hit me - I didn't actually want to be a lawyer.

My mother was horrified. I took off to Indonesia to, you know, "give her some time".

Indonesia had a profound impact on me. There I witnessed poverty, destitution and despair equal to none back home. One day on a trip up a mountain we were forced to a stop in traffic chaos. A hunched over elderly woman with a baby in a sling on her back approached the car window begging.

My local Indonesian driver explained to me that the baby on her back wasn't hers. Being the naive Westerner, I asked, "then whose is it?" He explained that she got the baby from a baby trader who purchased babies from parents who, out of desperation, sell their children for a few dollars. Beggars with babies get more sympathy, therefore more money. When the baby grows too big to carry the beggar goes back to the trader and exchanges the child for a smaller one. The original child is then taken to the river and disposed of.

I thought I was going to see monkeys up a mountain. God wanted me to see other things. I returned home with a newfound resolve to use my life as meaningfully as possible to contribute to society and to serve and empower others; to recognise and acknowledge the rich and diverse assets we do have, rather than focus on those we don't. People and others are always our greatest gift and asset.

I tossed up between living in New Zealand or moving to Australia. I love Aussie for the climate, environment, go-getter attitude and opportunities, but felt compelled to stay.

At that time, elections for council were looming. After much consideration, I decided to stand. One may have presumed this a natural course considering the family influence of mum being a former councillor. Of course this brought into light what local government was all about. Then, like many still, I held a disdain for the behaviour and environment of "politics". One day I realised that politics, or good governance, can be an effective and instrumental method of positive societal advancement. Flaxmere supported me in election for which I'm truly grateful. Council is my sole endeavour at this time. It's the road that I've found to travel, or the river upon which to row my waka.

As a councillor, I don't know some things. I know little about farming. I don't know a heck of a lot about the intricacies of our horticultural and agricultural sector, and I'm no business guru. As part of a community though, I trust the expertise we have here..

We all want the best for our children and our district. We don't compete, we complete.

Jacoby Poulain is a Hastings District Council Flaxmere ward councillor

- Hawkes Bay Today

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