Betsy Eyre honoured with new information panels

22/07/2020 1:12pm
Betsy Eyre, right, with Nelson City Council director of parks, David Bell, at the opening of Betsy Eyre Park in<br />
September 1977.
Betsy Eyre, right, with Nelson City Council director of parks, David Bell, at the opening of Betsy Eyre Park in
September 1977.

In 1956, Nelson City Council welcomed its first woman Councillor, Betsy Eyre.

It was the start of 17 years on the Council for Betsy, where she served nine years as deputy mayor and topped the polls at four Council elections.

On 8 August, Betsy’s trailblazing legacy and community spirit will be remembered with the unveiling of an information panel in her honour, erected at the park named for her, Betsy Eyre Park in Brook Valley.

Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese said Betsy’s appointment to Council helped pave the way for those who came after her, but the journey had been a long one.

“It’s a testament to Betsy’s true community spirit that she continued to serve the Nelson community as a Councillor for so many years, and that she was honoured by the community with the naming of Betsy Eyre Park.

“It wasn’t until last year, some 63 years after Betsy was first elected, that a full gender balance around the Council table was reached. That’s a long time. But who knows how long it could have been without Betsy taking that first step.”

The site of Betsy Eyre Park was originally earmarked for housing, but in 1976 a community movement to have the site cleaned up and made into a public park was launched.

Betsy became involved and helped both the community and Council present submissions to the Department of Lands and Survey to have the land gazetted as Recreation Reserve.

A petition to name the new park after Betsy was started by residents and was signed by then-Mayor Roy McClennan and every Councillor at the time.

Betsy opened the park on 17 September, 1977. Councillor Mel Courtney served on Council with Betsy and described her as having a deep love of people and her community.

“I worked closely with Cr Betsy Eyre in my dual role as a Nelson City Councillor and Member of Parliament for Nelson. Together we allocated pensioner housing and selected tenants for Government housing.

“I remember Betsy as a strong and intelligent woman who had to overcome the barriers and bias of being the sole female on Council at that time. She possessed a bright and happy disposition and was fun to work with - we laughed a lot together.”

Betsy served on the Council from 1956-1962, then again from 1965 to 1976.

A ceremony to unveil the panels will begin at 2pm, with speeches and a short play performance by the Histrionics, followed by cake and tea at the Prince Albert Restaurant and Bar.