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Published: 2007-10-12 00:00:00

Tears flowed at Environment Waikato’s final meeting of the triennium this week as councillors said goodbye to four retiring colleagues.

The Waikato Regional Passenger Transport Plan and the Annual Report were both approved at Wednesday’s meeting, the last for councillors Rex Hawkins, Jim Howland, Basil Morrison and Steve Osborne.

Long-serving councillor Jim Howland, a well-known and highly respected member of the Putaruru community, is stepping down after serving 18 years on the council.

Cr Howland has been involved with Environment Waikato since it was established in 1989. A former deputy chair of the Waikato United Council, one of the organisations amalgamated to form the regional council, he was appointed to a committee involved with the gargantuan task of overhauling local government that year.

A former mayor of Putaruru Borough Council from 1974-1989, he chaired Environment Waikato’s planning and environment committee and later its regulatory committee.

At this week’s meeting staff and councillors spoke of their “enormous” respect for a quiet and humble man whose distinguished career in public service roles spans more than four decades.

“Cr Howland is hugely admired, not only in this region, but throughout New Zealand,” Environment Waikato chief executive Harry Wilson said.

“As chairman of the regulatory committee, he took a firm but fair approach to his work and always went out of his way to make sure people had a genuine say and were treated with respect. He strongly disliked having to prosecute people, but he’d never shy away from it when he believed it necessary.

“He has been a rock in this organisation – someone you could always turn to for sage advice – and he was so popular in the Putaruru community people used to joke that he didn’t know how to run an election campaign because few were brave enough to stand against him.

“Jim is a true gentleman. We extend our sincere and heartfelt thanks to him for the contribution he has made to this organisation and to the Waikato region.”

Cr Howland’s achievements in the public service are extensive, and include 29 years on Putaruru High School’s board of governors and 20 years on the New Zealand Secondary Schools Boards Association.

He helped to establish the South Waikato sheltered workshop and training centre, convened an IHC transport committee for 10 years, was a member of the Putaruru Volunteer Fire Brigade for 15 years, and has been heavily involved with the Putaruru Timber Museum Society. He was a foundation board member of the Rangiura Trust Home for the Elderly, where he was a past deputy chairman and remains a trustee.

A Justice of the Peace who received an MBE in 1992, he is a foundation member of the Midland Regional Health Consumer Trust and has been a member of the Putaruru Rotary Club for more than 50 years. He was also a foundation member of the Putaruru Jaycees.

After living in the Putaruru district all his life, Cr Howland plans to retire to Lake Rotoiti for some well earned fishing time.

“I believe we have a wonderful culture within Environment Waikato and it has always been a great pleasure to work with such a dedicated staff,” he said.