In 2019, legislation was passed which put the people back into council business. Until then, we’d become familiar with hearing council’s role was pipes, roads and rubbish. Local government must now “promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities”. That might mean more funding for arts, or community organisations. It might mean making sure any decisions made consider the four well-beings. Regardless, I wanted to highlight an issue that is important for youth and how council has a role to play in addressing it.
If you ask young people what is important to them, climate and mental health will be at the top of the list. So, what role does our city council play in addressing mental health? It’s here that we consider the second of the two options outlined above, no-one is suggesting council fund mental health initiatives, but they can make sure that all decisions made consider what we know to be good for mental health. That means make sure that we protect and restore green spaces and make getting around the city safer and easier. Nature and physical activity are good for mental health. Councils can support community wellbeing by funding and promoting community work, events and organisations. Connectivity, a sense of belonging and identity are good for mental health. Finally, affordable housing – can be enabled by council by coming up with innovative solutions like the community land trust, or making sure developers offer “affordable” options. Financial pressure impacts on mental health. Council has a role to play in promoting wellbeing, I hope that we use this election to make sure that candidates know that this is a priority for not just youth, but all of us.
We’ve been asked what the political priorities for youth are in this year’s local election. I could give you a long list of what I think the issues facing Hamilton are but it feels a bit wrong me telling you what you what ‘the priorities are’ or what you should care about. We’re all different, and what you want for the city will be different to what I want. So I’m going to focus on what we can do to improve participation to give more people a voice to say what they want for themselves. But then I’m going to talk about how local government can play a role improving mental health to show how councils could be relevant.
In October 2016 –the voter turnout in Hamilton went from 38 to 34% the lowest of all cities in NZ. We saw the election of 12 councillors and a Mayor who looked nothing like the majority of Hamiltonians, certainly not me. There’s nothing wrong with the make up of our current council if you are a male, over 50 with a Eurocentric viewpoint – but like I said that isn’t most of us so it is a problem. No councillors under 40. No Maori or Pasifika. Only three women. Many were long term politicians or professionals so far removed from trying to live on the $20-30,000 per year many young people live on.
It’s a problem because even with the best of their intentions they won’t represent as well as we could ourselves. We have different viewpoints on the purpose of life, what’s best for our family, how we want to live and what’s important to us. That’s the crux of why we need as many people as possible influencing decision making through voting every three years and participating at any opportunity along the way. It’s time they made that easier.
As a result of that low turnout and lack of diversity I founded Politics in the Tron a way to get more people political – by informing Hamiltonians about the issues and players in council; providing a hub for discussion and encouraging participation. Ultimately it comes from a place of loving Hamilton but recognising it would be even better if more of us were involved in shaping it.
But I and Politics in the Tron are just one cog in the wheel. To increase engagement, we need to support the candidates putting their hand up, they will rouse the public’s interest and inspire us to get involved and vote. We’ve seen that with youth and with women in this election so far. We can also mobilise based on issues – like climate.
The student enviroleaders and
you’ll hear from Hannah soon, are a really great example, of a group who
identified an issue, learnt about council processes, found communities to
support the issue – and followed the slow process through.
Unfortunately it also
highlighted examples of what happens when young people do take concerns to
councillors who are older – we heard patronising comments who called our
leaders kids, used words like hysterical, brainwashed – but even worse, a
comment along the lines of ‘well done for participating’ but ‘we know better
and aren’t going to give you what you asked for’. What I would like to know is if over 1000
businessmen signed a petition, filled the gallery and presented compelling
reasons why this decision is best for the majority – would councillors have
agreed and voted for what they were asking?
Time for a change I think.
If the average age of a Hamiltonian is 32, I think it’s time we saw the average age of elected members drop this year there’s no lack of credible candidates. Head to Seed Waikato’s website for more information about those candidates specifically.
When I think about what is important to us – politics aside – two things stand out Climate change and mental health. Councils need to a better job at showing us how decisions made impact on the issues we care about.
Most councillors would probably say mental health is a role for central government but physical health, housing affordability, sense of belonging and connection all impact on mental health and are all decisions that run past a councillor. As I go through them briefly now I hope that it might help to show that local government can be relevant and it is worth voting.
I don’t know about you but when I’m active, walking and biking around – I feel good. We know physical activity is good for our well-being so it makes sense to make sure that Hamilton has good, consistent, safe cycleways, footpaths and green spaces. Making it easier and safer to exercise is good for mental health.
For good mental health we also want to feel connected with our communities however we choose to define them; connecting is easier when the hubs like community organisations or neighbourhood houses are well supported, like the new pan pasifika hub being built for our city – a great decision. Community organisations play a crucial role in bringing people together enabling information sharing and looking after the isolated or the most vulnerable. Connection and belonging is good for our mental health.
Arts and culture are good for our mental health. Your jam might be visual arts, theatre, dance, or music. But here’s an example of what happens when your councillors are old and out of touch… The decision to buy and demolish Victoria street buildings might have seemed like a great idea to a council who wanted to make the Victoria on the River park bigger – but what they failed to do is realise that one of those buildings included Nivara Lounge, which is arguably the most important live music venue in our city today. It not only provides an inclusive venue for live musicians to perform, but also provides a space for members of our community to come together each month – for Sunday jazz, comedy clubs, hip hop nights etc. etc. So while Nivara Lounge isn’t funded by council – the council make decisions which impact on the ability of venues like this to exist. Music and arts are good for our mental health – so we need a council that understands the local scene.
When you bring up affordable housing many – usually the rates control waka will tell you it’s a central govt thing – completely ignoring what is in council’s power to do and what might be best done locally. For example, the council have recently voted to put $2 million into a community land trust –so there will be houses available in Hamilton which has the land value taken out of the cost. When a developer comes to council with a plan, council can specify how much of their development project has to be “affordable” housing – while that’s a loose word on the free market, it does provide an opportunity for slightly cheaper than average houses to be on the market. Councils can do more to create affordable housing options by changing the district plan so that we see high rise apartments. Cost of living is impacting on our mental health. Councils need supported to try as many tools as possible to address that.
I’ve shared some ideas today on how decisions council make every day impact on the city we live in, and that if we want a higher youth turnout they and we need to do a better job at making what councils do relatable.
We’re looking at priorities for youth in the upcoming election, I think we should focus on informing and encouraging people to participate and I know that if we can relate everything council does to mental health and climate that we will see that youthquake we’re all after. We need help growing Politics in the Tron so that we all get more political in a space that is comfortable – so join me www.politicsinthetron.co.nz.
There is a fear of the future, and frustration at missed opportunities driving some of our young candidates to stand in the upcoming election. On Tuesday night nine Waikato candidates under 35 years took to the stage at Seed Waikato’s Let’s give a shit about local politics event. Currently only 51% of Hamiltonians under the age of 24 are enrolled, so the event came with a 101 on how to enrol and vote. While local government elections usually fly under the radar of young candidates it was clear that issues of climate, housing and transport had motivated some to stand. Sarah Thomson, a Hamilton West candidate who took the government to court over inaction on climate change set out a vision for what our city could be doing better, particularly with redirecting money from roads to cycleways and public transport. Dan Armstrong, a Waikato Regional Council candidate for the Waipa-King country seat highlighted the need to prepare some communities around the region to retreat from eroding coastlines. While, climate was high on the list of priorities Tim Young, Hamilton East candidate spoke about needing a council who looked to science and technology to form policies led by educated views. Next Tuesday the University of Waikato are hosting a panel on Getting out to vote: Youth and the elections with local leaders focused on issues currently not being addressed by council. Register through eventbrite.
Nominations have (finally) opened for people wanting to represent our communities in local government. In this episode we are joined by Dan Armstrong, who announced his election campaign for a Waipa-King country seat at the Waikato Regional Council. We talk about his motivations, what he sees the opportunities (and challenges) for the region are, and what he has to offer. Have a listen – and follow his page for updates on his campaign. (Note: if you are a Hamilton resident, you can’t vote for him -but you can support him by sharing his page with people you know in that region). You’ll hear more from him in the upcoming Seed Waikato “Let’s give a shit about local politics” event.
As well as a chat with Dan, we are joined by Mukuka – a local singer songwriter who released a new single on Friday! “Time + Space” is the first single from her EP Autumn. We chat about what she’s been up to since “Just Fine” which as it happens was one of the songs I shared on the first episode of Kelli from the Tron! Mukuka uses her music to celebrate and explore her heritage. As well as sharing Mukuka’s new track, we’ve got the new one from Date Month Year – “Haunted” and it really is. Check out the video for that track.
On the first Friday of every month Paul (the other one) Barlow joins me on Free FM to recap the month in city politics. We talk about the players, the game and the issues. In this podcast (from 17min) we round-up the candidates who have announced their intention to campaign in the upcoming election. Candidates for Hamilton East have been coming through thick and fast (and I’m excited by them all!) – West and Regional Council a bit slower – but hey, its over a month until nominations actually open (July 12th).
If you’re specifically interested in finding out more about the women campaigning – and want to support them – Political Women Waikato.
In terms of our city’s low voter turnout and lack of diversity, its been exciting to see new and diverse faces announce. Which took us to talking about diversity, and what “f##k the status quo” actually means.
About 25% of women in Aotearoa have had an abortion, yet we don’t talk about it and it still comes under the Crimes Act.
In this Free FM podcast I speak to Terry Belamak from ALRANZ (Abortion law reform). I ask why this matters (human rights), the current process to access abortion in NZ, whether there is equal access across New Zealand and the process to change a 40 year old law.
In this podcast I wrap up the week in local political news (Hamilton NZ). Have a listen or check out the summary below…..
grey wall of shame is about to get a make-over (at long last). The $100,000 price-tag will be fundraised by
Beyond Tomorrow Trust – who we don’t know much about except that Councillor
Ryan Hamilton is a trustee. According to
the Charities register the purpose of the trust was religion and education… regardless,
I look forward to the design being one that recognises the cultural significance
of that site for Maaori.
Go Eco presented their ‘State of the Environment’ report which included a presentation by a Hillcrest High Student – who is a first time voter this year – asking for urgency in response to the climate crisis. He’s involved in the School strikes for climate movement who you can find out more about here.
However, it was the attempt
by Mayor Andrew to censor a couple of paragraphs of the report that attracted
nationwide media coverage. You can watch
the live streamed video
of the meeting here. In my opinion,
councillors who were uncomfortable over words like ‘colonisation’, ‘privilege’,
‘pakeha’ or ‘oppression’ need to start reading history books, getting out into
the community they claim to represent and need to reflect rather than get
defensive and upset about facts presented.
We’ve got to acknowledge the problem before we can find workable
Friday the 17th
was the last day to send in a submission to the Gambling Commission to oppose Sky
City swapping three blackjack tables for 63 pokie machines.