Community Scoop » Big Push for More Local Government Appointments – LGNZ

Press Release – Local Government NZ

Local Government of New Zealand (LGNZ) fears that some roles will go unfilled or key roles will go uncontested in this year’s local elections unless more candidates throw their hats into the ring ahead of the nominations close on Friday. The last election saw…

Local Government of New Zealand (LGNZ) fears that some roles will go unfilled or key roles will go uncontested in this year’s local elections unless more candidates throw their hats into the ring ahead of the nominations close on Friday.

The latest election saw the lowest number of nominations relative to available seats since LGNZ began collecting data. At this rate, we are likely to see an even lower number this year.

“Competition for seats is a sign of a healthy democracy. In 2019 there were over 1,600 vacancies on councils, community councils and local councils and on average we saw two candidates for every vacant seat,” LGNZ Chairman Stuart Cosby said.

“But this time around, many of our councils face the prospect of uncontested appointments, especially those outside the big cities. Scenarios like the Mackenzie District Council, which has 19 vacancies but only 3 appointments, are sobering,” said Stuart Crosby.

“Local government is an incredible platform to drive change. My message to anyone considering running for their nominations immediately,” said Lan Pham, LGNZ National Council Member and Co-Chair of the Elected Youth Committee.

“With the review of the future of local government underway, elected officials in October will have a unique opportunity to rethink and shape local government and the role it will play in leading communities into the future. An opportunity we haven’t seen since 1989.

“It’s not uncommon to see a flurry of applications the morning of their close, and we know for town halls in particular that some have already started campaigning before the close of applications.

“But the number of nominations is our primary indication of interest and with four days to go I am particularly concerned about the lack of nominations for councilors and community council members.

“Currently hardly any council in the South Island has more candidates than vacancies and places like Nelson and Greymouth, which were among the most contested last time around, have barely a dozen nominations registered between them .

“We know there are many more people who want to be at the heart of local decision-making. I was one of them six years ago.

“As a young woman, I didn’t know if local government was the right environment for me, but my family and my peers convinced me that I had to give it a try.

“Over the past two terms I have been able to influence a number of decisions which have really made Canterbury a better place for the next generation. I was also blessed to become a mum during this time.

“It is important that our council tables reflect the communities they represent. Our communities are becoming more and more diverse, so we need a wide range of candidates who are knowledgeable, eager to make change and care about their community to raise their hands this year,” said Lan Pham.

Bonita Bigham, Chair of Te Maruata Roopu Whakahaere (the national collective of LGNZ Maori in governance roles in local government) and community board member, encourages anyone who is passionate about the future of their community to consider all the roles available to her.

“It is worrying that we are seeing such a low number of appointments to community boards. There are districts like Rotorua, South Waikato and Rangitikei, which have less than one appointment in multiple community councils.

“Becoming a member of a community board is a great way to influence local decisions, but doesn’t require the same time commitment as a councilor or mayor. Yet it is equally important work.

“We also know that with 32 Maori wards (over 51 new Maori ward councilors) across the country, we will need more Maori to sit on council.

“We are doing a lot of work at LGNZ to get the right supports in place for our elected members after the October elections. This includes an updated two-day induction program for mayors and we have created Te Āhuru Mōwai, a new program to support Maori elected officials,” said Bonita Bigham.

“There are several hurdles for people who want to run for local government politics, including salary, workload and some of the ugly rhetoric directed at elected officials,” Stuart Crosby said.

“LGNZ is acutely aware of these challenges and continues to advocate for change at the highest levels of decision makers. After raising the need to do more to protect candidates ahead of local elections this year, the government has made changes to local election law to remove the requirement for candidates to publish their residential address. This helps in part to keep candidates safe and we continue to push for more changes, including better pay and a stronger partnership with central government.

“It takes work to create an inclusive democracy and we all have a role to play.

“If you know someone who is community-minded, committed, forward-looking and up for a challenge, a role in local government might be just the environment in which they would thrive. To nominate someone is an easy process, you only need two people who are registered to vote in the ward to nominate the nominee,” said Stuart Crosby.

Content sourced from scoop.co.nz
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