Catherine Stewart: creative councillor


Catherine Stewart is an elected Tauranga City Councillor who has represented the Otumoetai Ward for over nine years. But, I want to talk to Catherine Stewart the woman who wrote and read a poem for National Poetry Day 2016.

Poet and Councillor Tauranga's Catherine Stewart

Poet and Councillor Tauranga’s Catherine Stewart

It’s September 2016 and we’re sitting at one of the small tables in the front of Little Long in Spring Street Downtown Tauranga. The first thing I want to know is, have there been other poems? And there have, recollections of places she has been like the Otago Rail Trail, awe-inspiring places like the Holyford Track where Catherine has used words to create her photograph, her memory.

She talks with enthusiasm and fondness about a Tauranga Girl’s College Teacher Irene O’Neill who was a “passionate art teacher” – an obvious influence and inspiration. Catherine still has a pottery necklace given to her by Ms O’Neill and remembers the natural colour palette of her clothing. Art, music, art history were all included in Stewart’s education. “No, I don’t have a portfolio”…..perhaps she should. She still has her art folder from school – and old green check cloth folder.

This background has developed into a love and enjoyment of a wide range of the creative arts and her personal photography – archival photography. We’ve both photographed the demolition taking place in Downtown Tauranga – Catherine recorded the demolition of the building – I photographed the street art wall before it disappeared into dust and fragments. Stewart has recorded the Cherrywood ANZ, including a lineup of all the staff, for the Kete – the New Zealand Libraries archival website.

I also discover that Catherine has taken adult tap-dancing classes and owns a pair of somewhat “dusty” tap shoes – you go girl – I’m impressed. My desire to learn hip hop starts to bubble at her disclosure.

Now a grandmother with four grandsons,Tauranga born and bred Catherine Stewart has always lived in Tauranga. It seems there is a creative streak in the family, a daughter is a drama and dance teacher. The grandsons are a delight – they keep in regular contact and she tells me about listening to them playing music (ukulele) over the phone to her. A background in travel and tourism has enabled her to travel extensively. She mentions her work as an ESOL volunteer and how much she personally learned and benefitted from that role.

Obviously practical as well as creative, I laugh when Stewart tells me how accompanied by the local Police she visited Downtown nightclubs at 1.30am “to see what really went on”. In September 2016 it’s re-election time in the Bay of Plenty so I ask Catherine if she has a campaign team – “no but her husband was out at 5.30am putting up signs.” The signs generally they’re not grafittied but the first year someone cut out the faces – and there have been the occasional addition of glasses.

As a Councillor Catherine supports a wide-range of creative activities – I’ve often seen her face at events of all kinds (including the launch of the International Youth Silent Film Festival). She’s just been on the judging panel for the TECT community awards. She’s on the local panel evaluating Creative New Zealand funding applications. Depending on the way it was implemented – “the devil is in the detail” Stewart supports the concept of a dedicated percentage from development funds for creative purposes.

What does she want to achieve in the arts as a Councillor? – to “enable people to get on and do things and reduce red tape that puts up blocks instead of opening the gate” She would also like to make “the arts accessible to as many people in the community as possible”.

Personally, she’d love to see more of those interesting little signs around the town. I’m fascinated when Catherine tells me that the cobbled patterns on Spring Street represent the spring and flowing water – when I go outside it’s so evident and now the street means something more.

Here’s the poem Catherine wrote and publically performed for National Poetry Day 2016

MAUAO – a treasure to behold

Living near the deep blue sea

Is always a delight for me

Nature abounds as I hear the sounds

Of the little blue penguins heading ashore

One of many treasures in store

The rhyolite dome Mauao is a landmark

Seen from far and wide

An attraction for walkers who love to stride

Pohutakawa trees blow in the sea-breeze

Seals glisten in the sunlit seas

While petrels return in the evening light

Creating quite a sight during the night

Pied shags sit atop the trees

And launch themselves into the breeze

The adventurous climb to the top

And then jump off –

Hang gliders are popular here

And surprise beachgoers with their flair

Cruise ships sail into our Port

Spoilt for choice

The passengers alight looking at all the amazing sights

Come dusk they sail away

With many happy memories of their special day in the Bay

Mauao – a treasure to behold

By Catherine Stewart

John Baxter reads at Wharf Street

John Baxter reads at Wharf Street

The photograph of Catherine is one of a portfolio of images taken by John Baxter. John is the Music Manager at the Incubator Collective, a musician, photographer and poet he is also part of the ARTbop and ARTbop alternative team as an interviewer, filmer and Chair of ARTbop alternative Altercation. He’s also a member of Liberated Squid and The Carradines – both bands recently performing at the Kingsley Smith organised charity event ROCK FEST 2016.

John Baxter and Jenny Argante on the Wharf Street Stage National Poetry Day 2016

John Baxter and Jenny Argante on the Wharf Street Stage National Poetry Day 2016

A poet reads at National Poetry Day 2016

A poet reads at National Poetry Day 2016

One of the readers at National Poetry Day 2016

One of the readers at National Poetry Day 2016

Music at National Poetry Day 2016

Music at National Poetry Day 2016

rockfest2016nov262016-007Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

donotleavemehangingbyathreadsecondseries2016-001Coming to You Tube soon:  Do not leave me hanging by a thread.  Spoken word poetry to encourage you to support the work of Doctors Without Borders – Medecin sans frontiers.

Recent local publications on sale at Creative Bay of plenty

Recent local publications on sale at Creative Bay of plenty

Looking for something different for Christmas? Check out what’s on offer at

Creative Bay of Plenty Gallery – lots of local creativity and art on display and for sale.

Our wonderful local markets: former Cargo Shed stalwarts have re-established themselves as a market in Otumoetai.


Just finished: 

Daily Voices.  

Viv Davy, textile artist currently living near Opunake, showed a selection of her interesting and detailed art.  Her exhibition was very well attended and you can see images of some of her work, a virtual walkthrough the gallery and more information on The Cottleston website

10 – 17 December


A short exhibition of the work that has been completed in the Cottleston studio during the last month by Artist in Residence Sheena Mayer. You are invited to come and view her work and meet this charming and talented German artist who has been working at the gallery during her tour of Australia and New Zealand.  She has a MLitt. (Master of Letters) in Fine Art Practice from the Glasgow School of Art.

6 – 18 December  (please note changed start date)

Very Printeresting : a variety of different prints from New Zealand and overseas artists. Some may be just what someone would like for Christmas. We can also organise the framing for you. 

4 – 17 January 2017 

Remains of the Day. 

Deborah Forkert has recently again been a finalist in the Tauranga Art Gallery Miles Award. Her unusual medium may surprise you.  More than five years’ practice-based research with one this medium has resulted in a very polished exhibition.

20 Jan – 20 Feb 2017

The Bee Appreciation Society AGM. 

Paintings by Katherine Steeds. A unique and painstaking installation of tiny portraits, in homage to the humble bee.

Anne Stråtveit’s  ART SCHOOL exhibition’s limited edition fine art prints are available now and will continue to be available through the gallery for the foreseeable future.  

During exhibitions the Gallery’s usual opening hours: 11am – 4.30pm every day except Mondays.

But visitors are welcome to browse the gallery outside these hours. Please simply phone for an appointment.

The Cottleston Gallery 

128 Oropi Road, Greerton, Tauranga.  

Contact Katherine Steeds 578 5242 or 0204783337

0204 STEEDS (0204 783337)

Cottlestongallery website

And for those readers in the family –

A work to be proud of

A work to be proud of

Grim Tales: an heirloom quality publication Grim Tales a collaboration of author and artist in a publication to support local refuge facilitated by local arts collective The Incubator

Read the review in Hobson’s Choices by Marcus Hobson

img_3864-web-lgbookcoverArts Revealed: Eastern Bay of Plenty

Andrea Cooper and Heather Hourigan

Read the review in Words by Lee Switzer


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