Leading the Chatham Islands
Monique Croon is the first female Mayor of the Chatham Islands, and she experiences unique challenges and successes in her role on New Zealand's remote and beautiful outpost.
Monique became involved in community organisations when her youngest son started school. She stood for the Chatham Islands Council which sparked her interest in Local Government, then she became Mayor in 2019. She is an owner and operator of a business that supplies fuel and hardware for the Island population of 650 people. “I started getting involved with Island politics because of challenges to provide a consistent supply of product, fair-priced service, and invest and maintain infrastructure in my business and for other businesses,” says Monique.
Becoming Chatham Islands’ first woman Mayor is rated by Monique’s as her biggest achievement. “I wouldn't say the role is completely natural for me, but I have done an extensive apprenticeship leading up to the role and I have really positive support from my CE, Council Staff, Contractors, Councilors, Community, my Iwi, and our Member of Parliament.” At a recent gathering of Mayors, Monique noticed a shift in the demographics:
“The room is much more colourful and diverse than when I first started at Council which was dominated by men in conservative coloured suits.”
Although Monique and her family came to the Chatham Islands in the 1970s from Auckland, her grandmother is Ngāti Mutunga which provides the Island connection. Monique lives in Owenga with her partner, and her two adult sons live in Christchurch. “Being Mayor of Chatham Islands is part time, but living in a small community – the responsibility of the role is full time.” Monique balances the role with her business, playing touch rugby and netball, and racing horses. She adds, “Life is generally pretty busy but it is important to maintain work-life balance so the computer needs to be turned off at times.”
Part of Monique’s role includes encouraging officials and Ministers to visit the Chatham Islands. She explains, “When you live 800km from the mainland there are difficulties not well understood until you live on the Island or visit. We are a small population, but we are a valuable and intriguing part of New Zealand.”
The Chatham Islands Council works closely with other Island entities Ngati Mutunga Iwi Trust, Hokotehi Moriori Trust and CI Enterprise Trust. Together they have developed a Chatham Islands Investment Strategy and set infrastructure priority projects to increase the Island’s resilience and keep people employed. “I know the outcomes that we are seeking as an Island, and I enjoy connecting with like-minded people who have the skills and drive to make things happen for these local initiatives.”
“I love living here, we have a beautiful whenua and I love meeting people who visit the Island. Life is never dull and we have a pretty special community, with a rich cultural history.”
For more insight into Island life, listen to Radio New Zealand's interview with Monique, about how the Chatham Islands has been coping with COVID-19.