Local Elections Candidate Interviews: Selena Coombes - Raglan Community Board


As part of the Morning Show's coverage of the 2022 Local Elections, Aaron will be interviewing candidates standing for positions on the Raglan Community Board as well as the Waikato District and Regional Councils. Below is a transcript of Aaron's interview with Selena Coombes.


"I get asked a lot, "Oh, so you're running for council," and it's like, "No I'm running for the community board, so I'll be your voice to the council," she said

(Listen to the full interview below:)

Aaron: We've got Selena Coombes in the studio, good morning.

Selena Coombes: Kia ora.

Aaron: And you're running for Raglan Community Board?

Selena Coombes: Yes, I am.

Aaron: Tell us a little bit about yourself to start off.

Selena Coombes: I've lived in Raglan for ten years. My grandfather retired here, so I've been coming here all my life. When I came back, I found out I had quite a lot of whakapapa in the area.  I'm fifth generation New Zealand-European and a lot of my roots are in the Waikato and Raglan area.

Aaron: Tell us about your working life as well.

Selena Coombes: I ran a cleaning business called Fairy Awesome for five years, I was a small business owner and got to know a lot of the community and parts of the community that way. I met a lot of people and saw a lot of different parts of Raglan.

Selena Coombes: I worked at the rest home for a while. I've worked at Kāhu's Nest, I've worked in hospitality.

Aaron: That sounds like a typical Raglan kind of career.

Selena Coombes: And then in my past life in Nelson I was on the Arts Council there for a while. I was one of the younger members so yeah. Going back a while now.

Aaron: Do you have an arts background or are you just one of the people who's interested in arts and likes to facilitate it?

Selena Coombes: A bit of both.

Aaron: Have you done any art around Whāingaroa?

Selena Coombes: No, I'm more into music. But actually I teach and facilitate an improv class, so theatre sports - think; Whose Line Is It Anyway.

Aaron: Is that still going at the moment?

Selena Coombes: Yes.

Aaron: Oh we haven't got that on our What's On guide. Or you might be so full that you don't want anyone else.

Selena Coombes: We are actually so full.

Aaron: I get that sometimes.

Selena Coombes: So we advertised last term and it filled up and the classes were actually a little bit too big. So we've pulled it back again and we are working towards doing a performance next term.

Aaron: That would be awesome. So something in the Town Hall or the Creative Space?

Selena Coombes: Probably at the Old School Arts Centre.

Aaron: But something for us, the public, to come along and be entertained. That would be awesome because we need things like that.

Selena Coombes: Yeah.

Aaron: So why did you decide to run for the community board?

Selena Coombes: I've always been interested in politics and local politics and politics in general. I have a bit of time up my sleeve. I think that's one of the important things is being available to do that job. Because I don't have a full time job, I do actually have time.

Aaron: The ability to do lots of unpaid work for the board seems to be a necessity. That's certainly been coming through. Are you going on the board with specific things you think you'd like to see happening in Raglan Whāingaroa?

Selena Coombes: I understand that the community board doesn't necessarily have power on council. I get asked a lot, "Oh, so you're running for council," and it's like, "No I'm running for the community board, so I'll be your voice to the council." I do understand that my role is to actually consult with the community and take their concerns to council and just make sure that decisions that are being made about Raglan have been consulted about with people that it's actually going to affect. From the local up, not from the council down.

Aaron: How do you think the council's performing in that regard at the moment?

Selena Coombes: I think actually this last community board, a lot of people that we've had, have done some really amazing things and built some really big bridges. I'm quite proud of what they've done and the relationships that they've built with the council and I see it working together a lot more closely. Especially with the local hapū as well.

Aaron: Do you think the council over the hill have been receptive to that? Because the picture I'm getting is kind of, like you said, that the board is representing the community to the council. (even though they're officially a council organisation and they have council staff coming to do the minutes at the meetings and all that sort of thing) that if there's a divide, then it is between the board and the council. Do you think the council's been receptive enough to hearing from Raglan?

Selena Coombes: There is room for improvement.

Aaron: Right. Is there anything in particular you've been looking at that kind of highlights that for you at all?

Selena Coombes: Probably trying to close down the walkway down to Lorenzen Bay Road.

Aaron: The one that comes to Lorenzen Bay from Bay View Road?

Selena Coombes: Yeah from Bay View Road. I don't understand the thinking behind wanting to close it down, as someone that's got mobility issues. I was house sitting there at one time and wanting to walk my dog down to the beach, that's definitely the easiest access and most accessible.

Aaron: Way better than the option they were suggesting.

Selena Coombes: Yeah so walking down or up a hill or up a road with no footpaths. There's a lot of parents with prams and kids and dogs and you're wanting them to sort of walk around the roads where there's no footpaths.

Aaron: That's true as well.

Selena Coombes: I just don't see that as a safe option.

Aaron: Yeah. Bay View Road and Cambrae Road both haven't got footpaths and it's difficult to see where they would put them for some of those streets. That's an interesting one, I think I'm starting to understand part of the problem; the council says it floods and it does flood, I think, because there's like a flap on the drain outlet into the sea there to stop the sea rushing up the creek.

Selena Coombes: Yeah. The king tides that happen about twice a year might come up a bit more than that.

Aaron: But also, if it's raining a lot, then the water coming down the creek can't get out. Then if you get enough rain and enough water, inevitably it will flood as well - which might explain some of the stuff we see.

Selena Coombes: But also the locals are saying that in the area, (that use the track lot) it hasn't been maintained properly.

Aaron: No, it hasn't. I've walked down there.

Selena Coombes: So the water when it does come up it just keeps washing it away, but there's been nothing there to - like there's ways that we could actually make it a bit more solid so that when the water comes up, it doesn't have so much of an effect.

Aaron: Yeah, it's interesting. We've got into the minute detail of one particular issue and one little part of Raglan and I mean, that's council stuff though, isn't it?

Selena Coombes: Yeah, how do you think about that practically, you know? And from that local level up and thinking about solutions to those issues and not just like, "Oh well we'll just close it down."

Aaron: I think the cost effective solution is the one that the locals know about. And it's often the case -it's not really to criticise staff - if they don't live here they don't know.

Selena Coombes: No, they don't, and I guess that's engaging with the council so that they do have a better understanding of ways that it could be done better and easier and cheaper. Keep everyone happy. 

Aaron: So you've probably heard some of the questions I'm about to ask because you said to me the other day you'd heard a few of the interviews and I'm always asking people about the question of: People want to retain the qualities that Raglan has got - it tends to result in trying to stop any change at all. I think it's important to understand what those qualities are. And everyone gives a different answer. But from your perspective, what is it that's unique about Raglan that we would like to retain or should try to retain?

Selena Coombes: In the ten years that I've been here, it's changed a lot. As I said, I've been coming here all my life and I remember it taking 40 minutes to get to Whale Bay because the road was gravel. So that was a day trip going out to Whale Bay.

Aaron: That's an improvement there.

Selena Coombes: Things have evolved and it's not a sleepy little village anymore. The things that I'd like to see remain is that community collectiveness and care that a lot of people have for each other. It seems to be a really safe place where people feel they want to start families here. I think that's a big part of what attracts people to Raglan and the surf culture as well. The care for the environment is really important to the people of Raglan. Not just recycling, but actually reusing and reducing our waste and restoring the native flora and fauna and bringing back the birdlife and getting rid of the pests. I wouldn't want to see it become a monoculture with only one kind of person here. I think we really need to retain our diversity. I think that's really important. Create a vibrant community when there's all sorts of different walks of life here and I think Raglan Naturally are doing some really amazing things and trying to retain that as well in the community.

Aaron: It's a challenging one. We have big issues almost everywhere in the Western world at the moment around housing.

Selena Coombes: Yeah, that's a huge one.

Aaron: Yeah. It would be ridiculous to ask you what the community board's going to do about that, but...

Selena Coombes: I don't know. Six years ago, I was flatting. I was probably paying a reasonable amount actually, considering the prices now. But I still was like, "Oh, I'm paying all that money out each week." And the reality of buying a house is a bit hard when you're a single person. So I bought a bus.

Selena Coombes: It's my kind of version of having a tiny house.

Aaron: Yeah.

Selena Coombes: Because it's a bit more transportable. But one of the challenges of owning a bus or a tiny house is like, where do you put it? You need water, you need to be able to get rid of your waste and sometimes electricity. And there's not many places where you can actually do that. So helping to make it easy for people wanting to set up tiny houses, or live in buses or trailers.

Aaron: That seems like a worthwhile thing to be doing. Do you think that's something you'd like to pursue if you were on the community board?

Selena Coombes: Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Aaron: We've sort of talked about what's unique about Raglan. But for the future, how do we handle the future? The biggest prediction I've seen is 12,000 people in the town area in 50 years time - we'll probably be gone by then.

Selena Coombes: That sounds like a lot of apartments, doesn't it? I used to run a venue kind of similar to the YOT Club for ten years and ran our own festivals. I've got quite a big music venue background. One of the biggest challenges I think for having a vibrant central area is that people are attracted to it because it has a nightlife, has restaurants, and music and entertainment. If you slap an apartment in the middle of that and there's no policy around soundproofing that apartment, you've destroyed it in a city.

Aaron: We already had that issue. Actually, when Sunset Motel was put in, they started enforcing a curfew or a sound curfew I guess you'd call it. But anyway people know what I mean so that's why we've got the 1:00am closing for the YOT Club and things like that.

Selena Coombes: Okay.

Aaron: There was a bylaw that was just up for review where I know local people were interested in extending that time again. And I also know that people like Kainga Ora are looking for intensification for all communities and they naturally want to put that in the middle of the town because that's where the transport nodes are.

Selena Coombes: Yeah.

Aaron: So I guess you're saying that's a contradiction or a conflict. Potential conflict.

Selena Coombes: Well. Potential conflict. And it's something that the whole country is facing as well. I've seen a lot of really great venues being shut down because of apartments going right up next to them in Auckland and Dunedin and Christchurch, Wellington. I don't know. If you're going to intensify, you really need to think about all aspects of that and keeping the balance. I think the other thing is about parking and cars and everyone wants to have their car. I can understand if maybe you're disabled or have got mobility issues being able to park next to where you're going shopping - that's really important. But otherwise what's the harm in walking? Or you could have trolleys if you need to carry your stuff somewhere. There's other practical solutions around how to manage that and keep everyone happy.

Aaron: To keep everyone happy - that's the challenge. Do you think because most people who go to music venues are younger, they're not so good at advocating for themselves at that kind of council level? Do you think that's a bit of a problem?

Selena Coombes: That can be a bit of a problem. Yeah, I think so. One of the interviews I listened to for the new Māori ward , I can't remember her name at the moment. She  started really young, which is quite inspiring. She's inspired other younger candidates in Huntly to run. So that has a bit of a flow on effect. And I mean historically, I'm probably pretty young for running for the community board.

Aaron: Roughly, give us an age range that you're in.

Selena Coombes: I'm 42.

Aaron: Oh, there we go. It's typically retired people, although our board has got a good mix in the last three years. A good age range.

Selena Coombes: Yeah a really good diverse board. I'm sort of generalising but historically, it would have been more older, male retired. So I'm really loving seeing a good mix of women running this time as well. I've done some work with Michelle Levy, who's really awesome. She's a smart cookie, that one. I'd really love to see her get on. I think she's got a lot to bring to the table. I really admire her. I was working with her during the COVID response.

Aaron: Yes.

Selena Coombes: When the queues for tests were going out the rugby field.

Aaron: Yeah. I've been in those queues.

Selena Coombes: Yeah. So I know it was great to see some more diversity and the people running.

Aaron: So you mentioned earlier that you were talking to people about running for the community board and they confuse that with running for council. The people, are they even voting?

Selena Coombes: I hope so.

Aaron: We know percentages are low and awareness is obviously low. So I'm just interested in what you're coming across at the moment.

Selena Coombes: I guess this is my first time sort of running for something like this so I kind of forget to go, "Oh, hey, and make sure you vote."

Aaron: You're not good at promoting yourself yet. I find that with the community board candidates.

Selena Coombes: A bit shy, a bit reserved and like, "Oh yeah, what's my campaign?"

Aaron: But you have seen people who are vaguely aware that this stuff happens at council, but that's about it.

Selena Coombes: Yeah. I still think they might vote, but maybe they just don't quite understand the difference between council members and community board members. I'm not sure but I guess it's good having a different diversity of people running so then their peer groups start talking about it. And it kind of makes them think, "Oh, maybe I should vote actually." 

Aaron: “Someone I know is running, I'll vote for them.” 

Selena Coombes: And then you've got to look at the rest of the candidates and make a decision as well.

Aaron: Well, folks, we've been talking to Selena Coombes running for Raglan Community Board and I'm sure you won't like this question, based on what we've just talked about, if we got time to tell us why people should vote for you.

Selena Coombes: They should vote for me because I'm organised, I'm practical, I'm proactive and I'm systematic.

Aaron: You were organised, you were checking your notes.

Selena Coombes: I was so organised. I listened  to all the other interviews and then I wrote the answer to that question.

Aaron: Oh, good. I'm glad I asked them. That's brilliant. Thank you heaps for coming in this morning.

Selena Coombes: Thanks, Aaron.

If you're an enrolled voter in the Waikato district, you'll get a voting information pack in the mail from Friday 16 September 2022.You will have until 12 noon on Saturday 8 October 2022 to vote. If you are sending your vote via post, please ensure that you have allowed enough time for your vote to be received by the due date. You. can also drop off your vote to: 

Raglan office and library
7 Bow Street, Raglan 3225
Phone: 07 825 8929
Opening hours: Monday - Friday 9am - 5pm, Saturday 9.30am - 12.30pm
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More information here.