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Nor'West News: October 22, 2020

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NOR’WEST NEWS Latest Canterbury news at starnews.co.nz<br />

Thursday <strong>October</strong> <strong>22</strong> <strong>2020</strong> 11<br />

Gautam’s determination pays off<br />

• By Bea Gooding<br />

AFTER MIGRATING from a<br />

small town in India to building<br />

a life in Christchurch for the last<br />

17 years, Sunita Gautam believes<br />

it’s her time to give back.<br />

A determination to serve her<br />

community has paid off for the<br />

Edgeware resident, as she has<br />

now been elected to represent the<br />

Central Ward in the Linwood-<br />

Central-Heathcote Community<br />

Board.<br />

Last week’s by-election results<br />

saw Gautam receiving 958 votes<br />

for the seat, over candidates<br />

Celeste Donovan, Clive Antony,<br />

Paul Lonsdale, Wayne Hawker,<br />

Faimeh Burke and John Stringer.<br />

Gautam is looking forward to<br />

the journey ahead and is taking<br />

over the position after the death<br />

of long-serving community<br />

board member and former city<br />

councillor Sally Buck.<br />

“I’m excited, this is just the<br />

beginning. I’m really proud of<br />

the Central Ward,” she said.<br />

“I really want to thank the<br />

people of central Christchurch<br />

for seeing beyond my skin<br />

colour. I’m grateful for the opportunity<br />

and I will not let them<br />

down.”<br />

Her vision for the ward includes<br />

making it a place where<br />

PRIDE: Sunita Gautam wants to improve the state of Linwood Village as the newlyelected<br />

Central Ward representative of the Linwood-Central-Heathcote Community<br />

Board.<br />

PHOTO: GEOFF SLOAN<br />

everyone felt safe, valued and<br />

had a sense of belonging.<br />

“We also need to sort out<br />

parking for residents, unhosted<br />

home-share accommodation and<br />

footpaths and roads.”<br />

A major focus was on encouraging<br />

more civic participation in<br />

her ward as she identified a lack<br />

of engagement and education on<br />

what a community board can do<br />

for residents.<br />

The recent by-election saw a<br />

23.46 per cent voter turnout, and<br />

33.43 per cent at the local elections<br />

last year.<br />

“Engagement – it’s what is<br />

lacking and it’s a frustration.<br />

I want to make sure the community<br />

understands the process<br />

as people have no idea what the<br />

structure is,” she said.<br />

“Like if people want to move<br />

a tree on their street, you need<br />

to go through the community<br />

board. Most of the time the process<br />

isn’t clear to the public.”<br />

She also wanted to prioritise<br />

taking steps to ensure Linwood<br />

Village gets a revamp and becomes<br />

a safer place to be in.<br />

Gautam moved from Shaktinagar<br />

(UP) – a small Indian town<br />

700km north-west of Kolkata<br />

– to Christchurch nearly two<br />

decades ago after an arranged<br />

marriage to join her husband,<br />

Sunil Ranjan, in the city.<br />

In that time she has worked as<br />

a business mentor, a justice of the<br />

peace, a marriage celebrant, and<br />

a business and management lecturer<br />

at Canterbury University.<br />

She will also be finishing her<br />

PhD later this year in immigrant<br />

entrepreneurship at UC.<br />

Gautam’s experience in the<br />

migrant and wider community<br />

and a passion for people was<br />

what drew her to the Central<br />

Ward role.<br />

“The council is doing great, but<br />

I wanted to be at the table where<br />

decisions are made,” she said.<br />

“I’m not a complainer, I’m a<br />

person who looks for solutions<br />

and I was getting frustrated that<br />

things weren’t getting done.”<br />

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