A new survey has revealed almost half of city and district councillors have experienced racism, gender discrimination or other forms of harassment.
The key findings from 105 anonymous responses from 56 local authorities found:
- 49.5 percent of respondents experienced racism or gender discrimination in their role
- 43 percent of respondents experienced other harassment, prejudice, threatening or derogatory behaviours in their role
- Close to a quarter of respondents didn't know how to report instances of harassment and/or discrimination
- Less than a third of respondents felt connected with other elected members in their workplace
Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) president Stuart Crosby said the feedback was confronting.
"The survey results make for tough reading, but to shift the dial, we need to start with acknowledging that there is a problem and find ways to address it," Crosby said.
This type of behaviour was happening everywhere, he said.
"Local democracies across the globe are grappling with issues around councillors, mayors and other elected members being bullied or harassed on the job. It's not an issue exclusive to New Zealand or even just our sector. But that is not an excuse not to address it in our sector."
Local Government New Zealand chief executive Susan Freeman-Greene said she was concerned about some of the behaviour and rhetoric in the early stages in this year's local body election.
"The campaign trail is a powerful platform for positive change, so we really want candidates to use it to engage with the important issues facing our communities. We know there's a more inclusive and productive way to get their voice heard," she said.
She's also glad the government took measures to help protect those who are campaigning.
"The government has recently removed the requirement for residential addresses to be published on campaign advertising. LGNZ raised this issue with the prime minister so it's great to see the government's moved swiftly on this issue", Freeman-Greene said.
To help local council become a culturally safe space, Local Government New Zealand is holding a hui in Palmerston North today to discuss a new mentoring programme called Te Āhuru Mōwai for all elected Māori members.
Nominations for 2022 local body elections close on the 12 August followed by the Local Government Election where voting closes on the 8 October.