Grandfather and granddaughter elected

By Peter de Graaf

1 comment
Kelly van Gaalen and Shaun Reilly are thought to be Northland's - if not New Zealand's - first granddaughter-grandfather duo in local government.
Kelly van Gaalen and Shaun Reilly are thought to be Northland's - if not New Zealand's - first granddaughter-grandfather duo in local government.

Northland's - and possibly New Zealand's - first grandfather-granddaughter duo in local government say they won't let their family relationship get in the way of working for their town.

They're divided, however, on whether it will make their job more difficult, in the same way they disagree on many other issues.

Kelly van Gaalen and her grandfather, Kaikohe identity Shaun Reilly, were elected unopposed on to the Kaikohe-Hokianga Community Board after three people stood in the three-seat Kaikohe subdivision in the recent local elections. They are joined by Kaikohe Sportsville chairman Mike Edmonds.

Mrs van Gaalen didn't know her grandfather was standing until she submitted her own nomination, and anyone who thought the pair would form an alliance or pursue the same issues was mistaken.

If he'd asked her opinion Mrs van Gaalen would have told her 82-year-old granddad not to run.

"I think he's too old, though since he's got in he's got a new lease of life."

Mrs van Gaalen said it would be difficult for her because she wouldn't be able to simply dismiss her grandfather's ideas if she disagreed with him, as she would at home. Instead she would have to listen politely as if he was any other board member.

"I'll have to take the fact he's my grandfather out of the equation," she said.

Mr Reilly, however, saw no such problems. There was no chance of him influencing his granddaughter's views because she was clear-thinking and strong willed.

Mr Reilly, who has previously contested community board elections without success, was still unsure whether he was "better off being outside pissing in or inside pissing out".

His aims included pushing for a return of all Far North District Council staff to Kaikohe - about 100 are currently based in Kerikeri - and the construction of a cultural centre and council offices on runanga land at the old Kaikohe Hotel site.

He also wanted to encourage the planned Ngawha industrial park development and the construction of a fully-fledged airport at Kaikohe aerodrome.

He also wanted to ensure the costs of sewage and water schemes continued to be met by the communities that used them rather than being spread over the whole district, particularly with Kerikeri in need of a multi-million-dollar sewerage system upgrade.

■ A spokesperson for Local Government New Zealand said she had heard of siblings or parents and children voted on to councils or community boards together but she could not recall a case of grandfather and grandchild.

That did not mean Kaikohe's case was a national first but it was at the very least a rare occurrence. She said it was positive because it showed a new generation was getting involved in local government.

- Northern Advocate

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