Room for improvement in Northland's democracy, student says

6:28 pm on 5 December 2019

Northland's democratic process has room for improvement, says University of Melbourne student Abby Kerr, 22, from Whangarei.

University of Melbourne student Abby Kerr (22) from Whangarei.

University of Melbourne student Abby Kerr. Photo: Supplied / LDR

"The democratic process is working in Northland, but like in any bureaucratic democratic process, there is always room for improvement," Kerr said.

"I'm very proud to come from Northland - but there is a lot of work to be done."

Ms Kerr is doing an Executive Master of Arts at Melbourne University - after completing a Bachelor of Arts double major in Political Science and Media and Communications at the University of Canterbury.

She said the money being spent on Northland local government politicians' remuneration was reasonable for 42 elected representatives, and the amount of work they put into the role.

But she qualified this, saying it depended to a degree on how each individual councillor performed.

Ms Kerr said the role of Northland's local government in the democratic process needed to be better understood.

"In a community like ours in Northland, and in this day and age, our politics, our Councillors and what's happening in our democracy should be better known," Ms Kerr said.

Better and new forms of communication were needed to help make sure people were aware of how local democracy was progressing, their elected politicians and what they were achieving. This was particularly the case with younger people

"No doubt, there's quite a lot of data about who is doing what and what's happening. We need better ways to get people interested in that information," Ms Kerr said.

"Most people my age might struggle even to name their local mayor."

More, improved social media use - including Instagram and Facebook - was an option for better communicating with youth and young people.

Local democracy education in Northland schools would help educate the younger generation.

"Regional elections are quite difficult to get younger people in particular involved in."

Northland local government needed to create a community that was as strong as other parts of New Zealand.

"We should be aiming for economically and socially developing our region so people my generation have something to come back to."

"I'm a proud Northlander, I am looking forward to coming back here," she said.

Ms Kerr said healthy local democracy needed council membership to be regularly refreshed - with a desirable refresh rate of 50 percent.

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