With fewer than 24 hours before nominations for October’s local body elections close, Horizons Regional councillor Fiona Gordon is encouraging people to get their nominations in.
“The more diversity around our council tables the better.”
She said the election was an opportunity to take an active role in community leadership.
“It’s about striving to deliver the best for our community and ensuring that the public can have confidence in the decisions being made on their behalf.”
The nomination window closes at noon tomorrow.
Gordon, a businesswoman and mother, said she was standing for re-election to a Palmerston North seat off the back of a first term that underscored the value of local decision-making.
“While it can be a really busy role at times and it can be a juggle, especially if you have another job, own a business or have a family to run around after, the role is definitely worth it in terms of tangible outcomes.
“There are great opportunities to work directly with the community through committees and advisory groups and working on funding panels is particularly rewarding.”
She said her experience on the Linklater Memorial Bursary, Kanorau Koiora Taketake (Indigenous Biodiversity Community Grant) and Pūtea Hapori Urupare Āhuarangi (Community Climate Response Fund) has been uplifting, “helping to support fantastic projects and talented students, all working to bring about positive change to our region”.
Gordon said being prepared to be challenged and to have frank and open discussion was important.
“That can bring about solid results for the community too. Council will need to continue listening carefully to our communities.
“But this is actually a really exciting time to be in local government. There’s new legislation coming through, the review of local government, and in the case of Horizons Regional Council, the next council will include councillors elected from two Māori constituencies.”
As of noon on Thursday, however, no nominations had been received for the council’s southern Māori constituency, and nominations for its northern Māori, Ruapehu, Tararua and Whanganui seats will go uncontested unless eleventh-hour nominations are received.
The Palmerston North, Horowhenua and Manawatū-Rangitīkei constituencies will each be contested, having more than the required number of nominations.
50-plus new Māori members
The chair of Te Maruata Rōpū Whakahaere, Local Government NZ’s Māori collective, Bonita Bigham, said more Māori would need to stand to fill more than 50 new Māori ward seats across the country.
“It’s going to be a different sector. We will now have at least half of the councils across the country with Māori wards, and that’s also acknowledging places like Bay of Plenty Regional Council, who have had Māori wards for more than 20 years.
“All up, there will be about 35 councils across the motu who have instigated Māori wards, 32 in this election, with 50-plus new Māori members coming into the sector. So it will be a different place, but the sector is ready for that.
“The conversations have been changing, the attitudes have been changing. Of course, there are those who find this process challenging and frightening but generally we’ve got a lot of great friends and lobbyists and tangata tiriti who see this as the best way forward for the motu.”
Bigham said LGNZ was doing a lot of work to put the right supports in place for elected members following October’s elections.
“This includes a refreshed two-day induction programme for mayors and we’ve established Te Āhuru Mōwai, a new programme to support Māori elected members.”
A community board member, Bigham is encouraging anyone who is passionate about their community’s future to look into all the roles available to them.
“It is concerning that we are seeing such low numbers of nominations for community boards. Becoming a community board member is an excellent way to influence local decisions but doesn’t require the same time commitment as a councillor or mayor. It is, however, an equally important job.”
Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.