Grounded, resilient and community focused

Tim set for a fish mish on the ‘yak

Tim Skinner exudes a measured calm and while relaxed on the surface, he sports deep convictions. Talk family and those qualities immediately surface. Father to Ethan 19, Caleb 17, Levi 9 and Brooke 6, Tim and wife Kirsty take parenting seriously.

“As the older boys were entering teenage hood, we kept them very active with sport, motorbikes, the outdoors and fun stuff like possuming, but young men need support and encouragement to push through their fears and realise their potential.”

Tim turned to his old stamping ground and fishing to help channel their testosterone and challenge them to overcome their perceived limitations. Kayaking was an affordable means to get the family into fishing and it also built strength, agility, endurance and co-ordination, and helped the boys focus. The approach was incremental, building confidence and skills in the relative safety of the Haven and then venturing out to the open ocean.

Ethan with a trevally and kahawai destined for the smoker

Tim admits to being a fishing novice too but the family relished in the process of learning new things; sponging tips off other local fishers, following The Fishing Paper… and ‘even reading some of Crimpy’s old books.’ They initially limited themselves to bait and hook, catching small snapper and cod, but soon cottoned on to the thrill of trolling for kahawai, parking up on a sheltered beach to cook lunch over an open fire and, ultimately, building their own smoker and sourcing manuka from the Grampians.

“We bought sonars for the kayaks but prefer reading signs on or above the water. We’d never taken any notice of boil ups before and now we are always on the look out for bird activity,” says Tim.

Over last summer when Ethan was home from Massey Uni, Tim and the lads were fishing almost every second day, completing over 25 kayak missions around Pepin Island—alternately launching from the shelter of Delaware Bay Estuary and Cable Bay. Tim reflects that the area and the experiences it affords locals has provided the boys with some pivotal learning experiences.

Once the weather cut up and, while not dangerous, it was outside the boys’ ability and comfort zone. Tim saw it as a salutary teaching opportunity and coached the boys on staying,focused, picking a spot on shore, keeping to a line and paddling steadily and continuously: the boys had to push through physical barriers and mental fears and remain focused for over an hour an a half in order to get back safely.

Ethan, Caleb and Levi on one of many forays around Pepin Island

“Pushing through those limitations wasn’t easy but they came back stronger, more resilient and with a new confidence—I have since seen the benefits of this in many other of their endeavours,” Tim says.

Other lessons have been intrinsic.

“Ostensibly we kayak to fish but, through it, the kids have really connected with nature—they get just as big a thrill from seeing birds, seals… a washed up pufferfish, as they do catching fish.”

And he cites Delaware Bay Estuary as, ironically, having a deeply profound impact on his family. Delaware Bay Estuary has been subject of much controversy over the past six years as Nelson City Council has pushed to ban locals from launching and retrieving small craft there, claiming the activity is unlawful and causing environmental damage. The move is being fought by local community representatives who have formed the Delaware Bay Access Group.

“Launching from the estuary, the kids have connected first hand with the forces of nature; felt the pull and surge of the tide, marvelled at stingray gliding beneath the kayaks, delighted in the diversity of the mudflats and soaked up the ambience of place.”

More importantly, Tim says his family never realised there was such a beautiful public asset right on our doorstep.

“They always thought these places existed ‘up north’,” he says. “They are buzzing out over it.”

What’s more, it has instilled in their hearts a deep urge to proudly and jealously protect this area.

As a councillor who firsthand understands the importance of unfettered access to community resources, Tim has been disappointed at Nelson City Council’s handling of this situation, the lack of engagement and how councillors were pushed aside by staff.

“Council has gone a bit rogue and thinks it has a mandate to follow the political agenda of the national scene,” he says.

He believes council needs to refocus on local body government, engage with and represent the community, and ultimately make the best decisions for the community.

“Bring back commonsense and grounded decision making,” he says. “Council has lost its way with wokeness—we need to be more resilient.”

Because of issues like Delaware Bay and Three Waters, Tim has entered the mayoralty race.

“With all the changes facing council, we need some old heads at the table and strong leadership—that comes from the top and it has been lacking in the past.”

Tim has always stood for social justice and is committed to robust engagement—not just ticking the boxes. For example, with the Delaware Bay Access issue he would involve the governance team, encourage all councillors and staff to physically visit the site and get all parties around the table—you generally find people have more in common than not.

He’s not scared to speak his mind, doesn’t shy from criticism and is not frightened to change the culture of council.

And he might just have the resilience to do it.

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