“I thought I would do my bit”

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By Nicole Sharp
Farmer by day, chairman by night.

Maniototo Community Board chairman Mark Harris is hanging up his tie this term and swapping it for more casual attire, as he shifts his focus back to farming.

Mr Harris has served two terms on the community board, one as a member and one as chairman.

He arrived in Ranfurly as a 23-year-old, to do a fencing job in the area.

He then met wife Jane, and the rest is history.

In 2010 he was asked by a friend if he was interested in standing for the community board and thought he would give it a go.

“I just thought I would do my bit. There was an election coming up and I got elected.”

It had been a smooth ship for Mr Harris to steer, with the only real issue arising in his time as chairman being the Maniototo Library.

“It was the biggie, but there was a compromise reached within it,” he said.

One of the most enjoyable parts of being involved with the board had been meeting people from all over the district.

“We’re all working towards the same result, to keep Central Otago going,” he said.

There had always been a small struggle in the Maniototo, but farming continued and would for years to come, Mr Harris said.

There were also large costs in small towns, such as upgrading the water scheme.

“It’s a very expensive process in small towns,” he said.

Mr Harris said the biggest change in the past six years had been the requirements put in place by the Government, such as those relating to health and safety.

It had been quite an experience being a part of the Maniototo Community Board, as he learnt how things operated, he said.

“It’s quite amazing how it all works, figuring out what will work and how things run.”

The next two big projects for the area would be the hospital and school upgrades, he said.

A lot of money would need to be raised in the community for the hospital although there was a reasonable amount raised already, Mr Harris said.

“I hope it will happen.”

As life on the farm had got busier, it was time for him to step away from local government, Mr Harris said.

His advice for next term’s board was to keep battling.

“They just have to keep fighting in our [the Maniototo’s] corner.”