22 Oct 2020

Wāhine grab chance to have voice at the council table

3:08 pm on 22 October 2020

Data mined by Local Government NZ shows an increase in elected members in South Wairarapa who are younger, female, more educated, and Māori.

Pip Maynard, left, and twin sister Melanie are both elected representatives in South Wairarapa

Pip Maynard, left, and twin sister Melanie are both elected representatives in South Wairarapa. Photo: Wairarapa Times-Age / Eli Hill

Local Government NZ president Stuart Crosby said the results showed "a real injection of youth and diversity" in the 2019 poll, "which dispels the notion that the sector is solely the domain of the pale, stale, and male".

"The research shows that more young Māori are standing up to be heard, particularly wāhine, and that is great to see."

The percentage of Māori representatives has more than doubled in the space of four elections, from five percent in 2007 to 13.5 percent last year.

The number of candidates aged 18 to 40 has almost doubled. At the other end of the age scale, there was also a rise in those aged 71 or over.

Mike Reid, LGNZ's principal policy advisor, said a broad set of elected members would "represent the diverse views of our community".

"You only have to look overseas where there's a lack of plurality and a lack of choice in representation, and see that it's not good for any society."

District councillor Pip Maynard who was first elected in 2016 is among those eager to inspire a new generation of representatives.

Now an experienced local politician, the Martinborough councillor is still the youngest member of the SWDC board.

Pip Maynard at a South Wairarapa District Council meeting in March

Pip Maynard at a South Wairarapa District Council meeting in March. Photo: Wairarapa Times-Age / Marcus Anselm

Maynard said connections with other young politicians gave her a fresh perspective.

She said contact with counterparts from across the country through a young elected member group was valuable.

Maynard has made contact with peers such as Nerissa Henry [Maungakiekie-Tāmaki Local Board member and 2020 parliamentary candidate for Pakuranga].

"She was a real go-getter. She was really positive and loved local government so much.

"It was really nice, actually, because sitting around a table where there was a certain age gap, to be able to call on that group and see what was going on in other parts of New Zealand.

"Things that we were also looking at, like water.

"It was just [about] reaching out and asking for feedback from anyone else to help make decisions. Having that connectivity, it's really important."

Henry represents Auckland on the group's committee, sitting alongside Carterton Deputy Mayor Rebecca Vergunst.

Pip Maynard South Wairarapa District Councillor

Jacinda Ardern with Nerissa Henry. Photo: Supplied / Facebook

Family affair

Maynard has since been joined in council positions by her twin sister Melanie, chair of Martinborough's Community board, and her brother Nathan, who sits on the Māori Standing Committee for the town's Hau Ariki marae.

The family has a long connection with the town and its politics - the twins were appointed as town criers at the district's formation in 1989.

Pip Maynard and her twin sister Mel were sworn in as town criers.

Photo: Wairarapa Times-Age

She said Māori have always "held the responsibility of being the kaitiaki [guardians] of the land".

"So, it doesn't surprise me how strongly young wāhine came up in that report as wanting to stand, looking after the environment, because it's ingrained."

She paid tribute to other Māori families in local government, such as the Te Tau whānau in Masterton.

Crosby said recent mass movements, such as climate strikes saw a lot of youth getting involved in political and social causes.

"Even with a lack of civics education in school, more and more young people are seeing local democracy as a way to shape New Zealand's future."

Maynard agreed. She said: "a lot of people feel they're not heard".

"When you're at the table, it doesn't mean you get your way every time, but at least you're being heard.

"That's why I think more and more young people will get involved. Look at the climate change marches, run through schools.

"It was organised by our teenagers. They've got issues that are so important that they know are going to affect us.

"It's going to be amazing. A young girl from, say, Makoura College could read this and get inspired to run for election. That's what we want."

The proportion of elected members who get their main salary from their council job rose by five per cent in 2019.

Maynard, who manages a popular winery in the wine village, was instrumental in a 2019 decision to increase its payments to elected representatives with families.

Maynard called on her council to be "proactive and forward-thinking" in offering further allowances to those with young children to support.

Crosby said that the remuneration increase makes it "actually viable for young people to both stand for local government and raise a family".

"The opportunity cost has been lowered. Traditionally the low pay has meant that local government has favoured the self-employed or retired, but this is slowly changing."

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