WELCOME TO LET'S GET LOCAL!
And just like that, it’s August. It’s a huge cliché to say that time is going fast. But… hasn’t this year just flown by?! The team at Parents for Climate Aotearoa are all busy getting our tamariki back to school and kindy again and trying to avoid winter bugs. But we’re also busy getting ready for local body elections, which are coming up on October 8th.
By “getting ready”, we don’t mean campaigning (although we would love to hear of any parents in our community who are running). We mean talking to our friends and family (and everyone reading) about local elections and why they’re important. Learning about the local issues and how to decide who to support. Asking local candidates questions about what they stand for.
INFORMATION AND EDUCATION
Voter turnout for local elections has been trending downwards over the last 30 years and in 2019 only 42% of eligible voters had their say. But our local government organisations are key decision makers for many projects that are really important for families (e.g. how our towns and cities are designed, transport, parks, pools, libraries, museums, household waste and water, and so much more) so this term we want to help you find out more about your local government organisations, your elected representatives, and the ways you and your family can engage in local decision making.
We know that lots of people are unfamiliar with what local governments do and how they operate. We also know from experience that local advocacy can be a community-building and positive way to stand up for what you believe in. So in the lead-up to the elections we’ll be answering some questions about local government and how to approach discussions with your friends and family about local issues. We want to help grow the group of parents around this country who are making their voices heard at a local level.
During the campaign, we’ll be sharing our experiences and information from councillors. But we also want to hear from you! Have you voted in local elections before? Have you engaged with your council in other ways? What would help you to feel more involved in the future of your community? Tell us here!
Some key dates for our campaign include:
Today - Let’s Get Local campaign launch!
August 12th - deadline for getting enrolled to vote and/or getting your nomination in if you want to run for council
August 22nd - Parents for Climate Webinar with a great panel of candidates and councillors
October 8th - Local body election date!
LET'S GET LOCAL!
By coming together in the next couple of months, let’s find out more about our local government organisations. Let’s meet the people standing to represent our communities, and ask them some hard questions about the things that worry us. Let’s set the stage for three years of local engagement and community involvement. Let’s get local!
Scroll down to find our blog posts on all the information you need to decide who is the best candidate for your neighbourhood. New post released every Sunday night until election week.
THE LOWDOWN ON LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Each week we will break down the what, how and why of local councils to help you decide which is the best candidate for your area.
WHAT DO LOCAL GOVERNMENT ORGANISATIONS DO?
In Aotearoa we have two different scales of local government; a local scale (City or District Councils) and a regional scale (Regional Councils). In some circumstances, these are combined into one council called a unitary council - like Auckland Council.
The local councils are generally in charge of things like public pools, libraries, museums, waste collection and local parks. They look after local roads, footpaths and cycleways. They also play a role in economic and community development through a range of local projects and initiatives. Most councils will also have targeted funds for community projects that groups can apply for.
HOW DOES LOCAL DECISION MAKING WORK IN AOTEAROA?
Last week we talked about some of the services that our local government organisations provide. They do a lot, right?! And to offer all of those services, there are a lot of decisions to be made. To make sure our communities get fair and democratic decisions, we elect people to make them on our behalf. Every three years, a Mayor (or chairperson for regional councils) and a set number of councillors are elected by the people who live in the city, district, or region that each council represents. And just in case your newsfeed hasn’t reminded you lately? This year’s the year we get to have our say in who they should be!
It’s an important time, because many big decisions that affect the community are made by these elected representatives.
WHY SHOULD I CARE ABOUT LOCAL GOVERNMENT?
As a parent, I am a heavy user of council services. I can’t imagine rainy days without our local library, sunny days without the park and playground, recycling without household and community rubbish collection. Enjoying Matariki celebrations and Christmas Parades with the whānau, and taking the kids swimming at the local pool. We use the sports fields and community centre every week and rely on safe roading infrastructure to walk to school.
There’s so much we love locally, and our votes are important in ensuring our communities continue to receive the services they need. The library, the bus, pools, rubbish collection, roads, sports fields, parks and so much more. Any roads outside of state highways are maintained by councils, and whether you have footpaths, bus lanes or bike paths is down to council decisions. Many people are unaware of the extent to which their local services (or lack of them) are due to local, rather than central, government. The people we elect to our councils can really affect the future of the places we live, work, and play.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD COUNCILLOR?
During the campaign period, a lot of people will be telling you that they’re the right person to represent your community. They’ll be telling you through billboards, flyers, debates, newspaper articles, and more. As community members, we are tasked with sifting through all the information to find the right people to represent us at the council table.
“No two days are ever the same, and I think that you could be in this space for 30 years, and still not experience two days the same. If you are willing to show up with a collaborative attitude, this role is potentially one of the most exciting you could find!”
Rachel Smith, first term councillor, Far North District Council
“I think being a parent helps, because everything I do I think, how is this helping to create a better future for our children?”
Carmen Houlahan, first term councillor, Dunedin City Council
There are as many ways to go about making this decision as there are voters, and everyone has different views that they want councillors to align with.
ENGAGING WITH COUNCIL
Did you know that you can make a presentation to your local council meetings on subjects you’re passionate about? I consider myself a pretty politically savvy person and I didn’t know that until I was in my late 20s!
Making a presentation is an incredibly powerful way of engaging with your local council. You’ll generally need to keep an eye on the council websites where they will post details of upcoming meetings, what the agenda is and if there’s a space for public presentations (usually presentations will tie in to agenda items in some way, although exceptions can be made).
BUT, WHAT DO I SAY?
For years I had a sense that I wanted to be more involved in my community and more engaged with local change. But I was busy with a full time job and a little kid, so I just kinda muddled through, volunteering here and there, contributing to consultations that I saw Facebook posts about, and occasionally thinking “gosh, I wish my views were better represented at the decision making table!”
Gradually, I dipped my toes a little further into engaging with local issues and making my voice heard. Inspired by How to Save a Planet, I did a Climate Action Venn diagram, and found that one of my sweet spots was writing and advocating on local transport issues.
Click here to read more!