So, have you thought about running in next year’s local elections yet?

*Coffee kōrero happening on Thursday the 22nd for potential female candidates and / or supporters.  Please get in touch with me directly for more information*

I don’t know about you, but there are times that I can’t even go to the toilet without someone needing something.  I can be interrupted mid-shower because someone’s hungry. (The someone is a 7 year old daughter by the way).  So is it any wonder pursuing goals outside the house is put aside until our children are old enough to at least babysit themselves?  I’ve been thinking a lot about why we have so few local female political leaders.  25% in Hamilton City Council.  20% of our countries Mayors.  I’ve talked to two of our city councillors about it it – and despite seeing all the reasons why we aren’t better represented, there is a way forward.

In the lead up to the 2016 local elections I was set on running as a Hamilton West Councillor.  I was sure I could do it if I worked hard enough.  I was sure I could offer a viewpoint I felt they needed in there, and I felt I had enough support form my husband to go through with the campaign.  But, that didn’t stop me backing out days before filling in a nomination form.  I just couldn’t do it.  I made excuses like, I can’t afford to do this (it’s easier to boost name recognition when you have money), Public speaking is terrifying.  I don’t want people looking at me all the time.  I really really struggled to do an elevator pitch on why someone should vote for me.  The person I had to be in campaign mode, when I’m naturally self deprecating and introverted is so far outside my comfort zone that it was causing anxiety.  I felt that so many people like myself, were switched off to local politics, that I wouldn’t have the base of voters needed to get in.  Why put myself through it?  Why put my family through it?

(Add >> quick acknowledgement that politics can be hard on the families of male councillors too).

And, I was extremely disappointed at the outcome of the 2016 elections.  The candidates I thought would be a community focused, progressive, environmentally focused and status-quo changing candidates weren’t elected.  Instead we have a conservative – Council which lacks diversity on many fronts.  Including females around the table.  Did I regret not standing?  No.

Is there any wonder women don’t run for council when we have less financial resources, can’t justify time away from the family and under-value our own skills and experience.

We’ve heard regular complaints about conduct in the chamber.  Slurs, disrespect, lewd jokes and bad language.  Not everyone wants to hear that all day.  That’s not to mention the tight 5, group think, old boy’s club, exclusion and political jestering that we associate with being in the game.

However, earlier I mentioned that there is a way forward, and it starts now.  Back in 2016 when I considered running as a candidate, I approached Angela O’Leary to talk about “the job”.  What it entails, and why campaigning is like.  She shared her background into the role and the support that exists for women in politics.  She has mentioned a willingness to mentor others to the role.  (She’s been a Hamilton city councillor for four terms so knows the job).  Last month she reinforced the need for us to shoulder tap people we know, to consider standing in next years election.  (Link to My most recent interview with Angela).

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These messages were reinforced again yesterday when I spoke to Paula Southgate.  She discussed her background to entering the governance roles she has had including 15 years at the Waikato Regional Council.  I felt that her advice about women with young families, taking on school board roles and kindy committees to gain helpful experience was a practical step for those who might be interested in the future. Of course governance isn’t the only pathway.  However she too mentioned being willing to mentor someone.  We discussed the calibre of existing female leaders in our city, and the need for everyone to ‘shoulder tap’ someone we think would represent the city well.  (Link to My most recent interview with Paula).

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There will be conduct issues, though no doubt, they will decrease as more females enter the arena.  There will be the need to turn a blind eye to criticism about needing to leave a meeting at 5pm.  There will be no more midnight meetings.  That’s not good for anyone.

So we have two experienced leaders interested in mentoring females into the role.  We have the talent already out in our community  It’s time to have those conversations with our friends, whanau and networks, and break down the barriers so that in 2019 we can vote in a more representative council.

Heads up to SAVE THE DATE for the evening of International Women’s Day 2019, for an evening dedicated to celebrating great leaders and supporting more.

**Note.  This piece stands separate to many many other conversations that need to be had if we are genuinely wanting a representative democracy.  It doesn’t include voting decisions, ethnic representation and doesn’t include the evidence showing the benefits of diversity in decision making. I’m not telling you to vote for women, because they are women.  I’m not implying they make better decisions – I’m suggesting to empower everyone to feel valued in society they have to feel they can participate.  Today’s conversation was based on barriers to women standing.  Next time, will be a different focus.  Feel free to contribute now.  I think ultimately we want the same – and that is to influence the world around us positively – in all the flavours that that might entail.

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#ChangeTheGovt

Vote for Change –a new direction, new priorities, new responses, and new solutions.

5 (of many) reasons why I think we need to change the government.

  1. Perseverance with the TPPA.

Over seven years, 12 countries around the Pacific rim have been negotiating an economic agreement which changes the rules for investment and trade; In effect making globalisation easier and giving corporates free reign.  The specific concerns by New Zealanders’ range from a loss in sovereignty (including breaches to existing Treaty of Waitangi rights); loss in ability to make decisions for the greater public good – through sanctions and the threat of being sued by companies who are impacted.  An example of this…We are currently targeting New Zealand to be “smoke free” by 2025 – signing the TPPA will have a detrimental impact on our health and wellbeing targets as someone like the British American tobacco company could sue us for bringing in legislation or regulations that impacts on their ability to trade here.  Another thing I personally abhor about the agreement is the impact it will have on small local businesses – creating more competition from bigger and overseas businesses– and in fact, the TPPA would make it easier for businesses to “go between borders” – bypassing tax payments and employing a cheaper workforce in some of the Asian countries in the agreement.  We would lose the ability to control overseas investors buying businesses / land and homes – we’ll have more on that later.  We’ll see a hike in the price of medicines – and with an aging population this could be cataclysmic for our health sector and people.  The list of negatives far outweigh the positives – which have been focussed on making it easier for exporters (namely dairy and forestry) to trade in other countries, by way of reduced tariffs.  Despite widespread public opposition by way of protests, petitions and a legal case National has continued to flog a dead horse (for want of a better term).  The scariest thing about the lack of future thinking by National is that once it is signed it cannot be undone; so we need to hope and have our fingers crossed that we can change the government before National can change our future – for the worse.  At this stage, despite President Trump pulling America out of the equation John Key still went to APEC and is still trying to keep the agreement alive.

  1. NZ is for NZers.

We appreciate the contribution migrants and refugees make to our country. We are happy that National has agreed to open our doors to an extra 250 refugees a year – but we absolutely don’t like corporates and overseas investors buying our land and taking profits generated from business here, overseas.  One of the examples off the top of my head is profits from our banking system as ASB and ANZ are Australian owned.  If I refer back to “the spinoff” running ticker I mentioned a few weeks ago, in less than a month $329,000 in net profit has gone to Australia, with $18,000 staying here.  That’s net profit – We’re giving Australians our money when there are kiwi owned options – like Kiwibank or Credit Union who would keep the money in NZ.  Furthermore, our resources are being sold off effectively for peanuts. Forestry is our biggest earner after dairy and meat – yet we sell ourselves short by selling raw logs for peanuts.  This seems irresponsible and considering the National party are the business party – I find it bizarre that they haven’t learnt the marketing basics of upselling, added value and diversity.  While we definitely need those logs to build our own homes – if we are going to sell our forests we need to be making a heck of a lot more money out of doing so by value adding.

  1. Lack of response to the housing crisis

The only people who don’t think there is a housing crisis are those who are fortunate enough to have the security of their own home.  For everybody else, and in increasing numbers there is undeniably a crisis – which has stemmed from a lack of, and too slow of a reaction to increasing demand.  The bad management has seen more families homeless, in temporary accommodation and other’s taking on extortionate mortgages in an overinflated market.  Land-bankers, investors, a slack tax policy (capital gains and overseas investment), and a love-affair with building impracticably large homes instead of sustainable ones has seen our supply slow to catch up.  In fact there are many benefits to building tiny houses and building apartments upwards – the structure of our families have changed so it’s often a one-parent famly.  The cost of building materials has gone through the roof – largely in part to sending so much of our (A grade) wood overseas.  The cost of owning a home is out of reach for many – and the millennials are becoming increasing disillusioned.  It’s not the whole “home ownership” that is at the core of the problem – not everyone wants to own their own home and the responsibilities that come with that… but they do want stability.  Young families in particular benefit from being able to stay in the same home, attend the same school or work especially when the children are young.  This benefits the children educationally – and socially with continuity of peers and helps with a sense of community.

A big part of this in my view is a need for a taxation policy shake up.  National is less likely to implement this because their voters won’t want this.  It’s going to mean increasing taxation to high income earners – with rising inequality there is definitely room for this.  We need to change business taxation rules – there are far too many people skirting taxes by using New Zealand as a “tax haven” due to loose trust laws; we need a capital gains tax to limit the appeal for investors; we need a Overseas investment tax to limit that happening.  The list goes on.

  1. A lack of leadership to address climate change

For a country that is supposed to be clean and green, we’ve certainly been slow to respond to climate change with a slow and non-existent plan to address our carbon emissions, and to protect, restore and find sustainable solutions to our environmental challenges and primary industry demands.  There is little doubt that National’s obsession with the exportation of our forestry and dairy industries is behind the reluctance to act.  This is another example of where corporates and short term financial gain gets in the way of common sense for our future generations.  At the moment the UN climate change conference is on at Marrakesh – this is the next step after we signed the Paris climate change agreement last year.  Unfortunately despite signing it there are no signs that we are even beginning to address our part of the bargain.  We are aiming for carbon emissions to be 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.  But get this – instead of working towards reducing our emissions – our focus is currently on buying carbon credits.  Basically – we’re going to pimp ourselves out to get credits which cancel out the negative impact we have on the environment.  This is not good enough and is a token effort which will put us in a precarious position economically and environmentally by the end of this decade.  The Green party has a great policy on this – which covers making sure agriculture pays it’s fair share, we focus on clean and renewable energy, focus on low carbon transport, end deep sea drilling/fracking and oil exploration.  National has their blinkers on.

  1. Cuts to public spending.

Our current government has reduced, frozen, or cut spending on many public and not for profit sector organisations.  Public spending as a proportion of GDP has decreased or stagnated during National’s term –Off the top of my head – this includes $1.7 billion cut over 5 years to the District Health Boards, cuts to Policing, a funding freeze for Radio NZ, loss of a contract with a government organisation jeopardising the future of Lifeline, cuts to the Department of Conservation – the list goes on.  The lack of funding also ignores increased demand for all of the services, with our growing population.  Funnily enough – despite this cuts, and a “better than forecast” surplus, there is a carrot being dangled for tax cuts – just in time for the election next year – a superficial attempt to appeal to the working class public.  The $10 a week tax back might sound good – but with a reduction in resources for the health sector as an example – it’s only going to end in chaos down the track.  I personally thought it was irresponsible and some ways patronising that they claim “they’ve got this” with regards to the Kaikoura earthquake, when there are many many examples of a slow response in Christchurch to getting back on their feet.  New Zealander’s want someone who will back the public services we want backed – not allow them to end up in crisis like we’re seeing with a  increasingly strained health system.  The reduction in public spending also highlights a need to have a conversation about our tax system – we may need to spend more especially on health and superannuation costs to cope with our aging population.  This will be unpopular for many – but if we collect taxes from those currently dodging payments we’d probably make up for it.

Now I understand that people may think the things that I have mentioned would remain the same even if National loses its majority.  But its not the case.  The beauty of being in opposition (like the Labour and Greens) is that they have their finger on the pulse, and will respond to what the public have been telling them.  They have focussed on what the public is telling them and would be able to bring those concerns to parliament to respond at long last to the issues New Zealanders’ actually care about.  More and more people are viewing National as being good for a few at the top at the expense of everyone else.  This sort of elitism and prioritisation of business over people cannot continue.  Despite knowing this, I think that lots of people have reservations about electing Labour or the Greens in.  In fact, if the election was held today we’d see National re-elected… According to the latest Colmar Brunton poll  Labour is still trailing on less than 30% and the Greens and NZ first at about 10% with National way ahead at 47%.  I have no idea why except that people are self serving.  A friend the other day said something to me like; “when I’m deciding who to vote for I first think about myself, and then if I’m not going to be significantly impacted either way I vote according to the greater good”.   A party who focuses on people or the environment is for the greater good.

 

Meet the (first time) female candidates for HCC

Tonight was all about WOMEN.  The YWCA organised a Meet the (female) Candidate event to coincide with it being 123 years since Kate Sheppard and the suffragettes secured women the right to vote.  While we can fully participate in society now, there are still (crazily enough) equity issues between men and women.  Some of them tangible – like the discrepancy in pay rates and some of them harder to measure such as the pressure of (usually) being the primary caregivers of children and older family members.  There is also still (subconscious) sexism shown through treatment by men… Mansplaining comes to mind.  While we are fortunate compared to many other countries around the world, I believe we could be doing better.

The “full house” (102 to be exact) enjoyed great hospitality with canapes and wines from NZMA while we heard a 2 minute introduction to candidates… before speed dating – which involved 16 candidates heading the table for 2 minutes each to answer any questions we saw fit to ask.

I enjoyed the night (catching up with Kate from Chris Simpson’s campaign team) and thought I’d share my thoughts on a few of the NEW candidates.

The stand out candidate for me personally is Anna Casey-Cox; tonight’s presentation confirmed it as it’s the first time I’ve seen her speak in person.  She is standing for Hamilton East as part of the Community Voice ticket.  She is personable, warm and has a social and environmental conscience that for me is key in this election. She is a genuine advocate for the community and has involvement with the Environment Centre and Poverty Action.  (She tops scorecards from Sustainable Waikato and Generation Zero too).  Unfortunately I can’t vote for her since I’m on the other side of the river but I do urge you to check out her website/facebook page and consider giving her a tick if you’re in the East.

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A candidate I find ‘interesting’ is Siggi Henry.  I heard early on that she is a rather pushy anti-fluoride campaigner (although she hasn’t made that an issue at either of the events I’ve seen her speak at).  I had the impression she was negative and critical which doesn’t sit well with me when I want a positive and collaborative council.  Contradicting this at both events she came across as genuine; bubbly and quite likeable.  She’s standing for Hamilton West and I’m still debating a vote for her.  She doesn’t have a facebook page but here’s a link to the Hamilton News article announcing her candidacy.  She also gets a thumbs up for getting her hoardings out early… Hamilton West definitely lagged behind the East in this respect.

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Another candidate I relate to is first time candidate Angela Strange. She’s a mother (with four kids!) so like myself she values things that make Hamilton a great place to raise a family, like the gardens, the river, playgrounds and libraries.  The average Hamiltonian is in their 30’s with a young family – so she’ll understand their challenges and priorities better than some of the other candidates.  We discussed the reluctance some people have to voting in a female candidate with children. Karina Green seems to have given the rest of us a bad rep by default…  Like myself, the role of Councillor would be a full-time job for her.  One where she would take the role seriously enough to make alternative childcare arrangements (the salary definitely permits it).

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Cathy Holland may very well make a great Waikato District Health Board member – but I’m not sure why she’s standing for the city.  She didn’t speak about it, admitted her passion was health and … clearly her hearts not in it.  Tania Hennebry bothered me.  I’m not sure why… she may stand up for what she wants but she seemed a little arrogant (in my opinion).  Pat Kaio is interesting because she did a few terms back in the late 80’s, early 90’s; things have changed and I don’t think that she has what it takes now (with all due respect).

Well, in terms of new candidates … that leaves Paula Southgate.  But, I’m going to leave her for another day.  What I WILL say is even if you don’t vote her for Mayor – if you are on the East side you’d be crazy not to vote her in as Councillor for the skills, experience and networks that she has through her time as chair at the Regional Council.
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I’ve decided to only cover city council candidates – but want to just acknowledge Jo Wrigley who has my vote for Waikato Regional Council.  I like her because she doesn’t seem like a politician – but has the knowledge, skills and ability – that’s endearing and trustworthy in my eyes.

I’ve also decided to cover Angela O’Leary separately as she an incumbent (heading into her forth term!!)

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Disclaimer / This is all in my opinion … I don’t need you to agree; I just want you to consider and VOTE for the choice that is best for YOU.

What makes a good Councillor?

You may think a lawyer, accountant, property developer or business owner would automatically make a great addition to the Council table.  But it isn’t necessarily so.  In fact, if you are voting based on profession and corporate experience, you could be missing out on a candidate that has a whole lot more to offer.

We need to vote in the candidates that will advocate for OUR needs, OUR values and OUR vision for the city.  This doesn’t necessarily line up with their occupation.  If we can relate to them as being “the most like us” and if their message resonates; it’s probably a good indicator that they will vote for things that you personally would have voted for.  However – figuring out WHO they really are, without relying on the information they choose to give you can be difficult and time consuming to wade through.

But… I’m going to give it a go.  Deciphering the information they give… the information freely available and a little bit of reading between the lines I hope to introduce you to some of this years Hamilton City Council candidates.

Women! Why aren’t you standing?

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Cartoon by Sharon Murdoch.  From http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/cartoon/34045/prime-minister-helen-clark-breaking-the-glass-ceiling

For decision making to take in a comprehensive range of perspectives and ideals our governing body needs to be a fair representation of the population they are making decisions for.  Unfortunately for New Zealand, we are being over-represented by older white males with a privileged background.  This means we are not benefiting from a strong pool of different ideas, experiences and hopes for the future.  I am statistically the average Hamilton (who is in their early thirties, with a young family) and this would make me a great candidate standing for what matters to us.

With only 16% of the candidates for the 2016 HCC elections being female – it’s fair to say it’s an unbalanced race, gender wise.  However because females putting their hand up are more likely to be voted in, I think we’ll see an elected rate of 30-40% come in for Hamilton when votes are counted.  This aligns pretty much with what is happening everywhere else in NZ.  However, no matter how you look at it 16% is a pretty sad statistic when we have so many females with lots to offer out there.

So… I guess this leads to you asking me the question.  Why aren’t you running this time?

To be honest, I wish I hadn’t pulled out.  Because, once I did – I realised that the roadblocks holding me back from running this term are similar reasons other women don’t stand and I would like to have been able to set an example of “just doing it anyway”. The biggest fears I personally had were in executing a good campaign – which involves self promotion, going outside of my comfort zone and money.

Females in particular have a really bad habit, of not backing ourselves, not putting ourselves first and playing down achievements.  We can be our own worst enemy.  It felt that every time I told someone I was running, that I would automatically follow it up by putting myself down.  This personal characteristic certainly gets in the way of appearing confident which is needed to gain trust.  While the average person might not be as self deprecating as I am – no matter who you are – learning to back yourself against adversity is a skill, and one I have to learn.

The main thing I ruminated on was my perceived lack of ability with public speaking and small talk especially to people I was meeting for the first time.  While the role of the Councillor is to advocate for those you represent (which involves being a good listener) there is also an element of needing to be an effective/persuasive oral communicator.  I found myself hearing confident speakers and understanding how they get votes even if their ideas are stupid.  Look at Trump.  A prime example of how the gift of the gab (and money) can get you into positions you are not necessarily the best for.  Given an opportunity I would naturally shy away from public speaking though have experience of doing so effectively in previous roles.  I just didn’t give myself enough credit for what I am good at and focused on the negative.

Aside from the dangers of overthinking; which can influence the decision for women to stand we are more likely to be the one who juggles the family’s schedule.  We can struggle to ask to take time out from the family to put our own needs and wants first without feeling guilty.  We’re also more likely to pick a sick kid up from school or cancel our own plans / commitments if required.  We have the fear of being a “bad Mum” hovering over our heads daily.

Family and personal characteristics aside – the decision to campaign is a big one financially.  It costs $200 to put your name forward – but thousands to advertise to give yourself a good chance of being elected.  The average Hamiltonian ends up (if they do at all) voting for the name they SAW the most during election time – which usually favours incumbents and those with money.  For me, I was concerned with the risk of losing the money we put into the campaign.  Yes you can look at it as an investment, but you can also look at it as $2000+ you’ll never see again.  Most people don’t have that money lying around.

So, what would make it easier for women to run?  Support. We should be talking about politics as a career or community focussed option more – and not just for a few months before an election.  I would like to see a support/network group initiated for women who would like to venture into politics.  It would be extremely beneficial to be able to talk to other local, civically/politically minded people about the system and topics of the day and build networks that would ultimately lead to a more collaborative, well balanced and representative governing body.

Fortunately a group that does this exists – and it’s called Women in Politics.  Please check out the website or their facebook page.

 

 

 

 

 

#letsgetpolitcal

I’ve decided to campaign for HCC in 2019, and will be using Kelli Pike to share political updates for you until then. I think it is more important than ever for young New Zealanders in particular to stand up and vote for a future worth having.  Be part of the decision making that our local and central government make for OUR lives every day.  You are entitled to a vote so use it this year in the local elections and next year with central elections.  You cannot complain if you didn’t vote and a no-vote is a vote for the status quo.#letsgetpolitical

Update: Local elections

After some serious soul searching I believe that I will be able to better represent you and your needs if I stand and am elected in the 2019 elections. The journey I have taken over the last few months has highlighted areas I want to further develop prior to standing.  Over the next three years I will continue to promote local arts, business and heritage but I have recently discovered a love of political writing and social commentary and will be independently reporting on topics which matter to our communities.  I will be focusing on increasing the political activism of our under 40’s prior to next year’s general election and in the local elections two years later.  I wholeheartedly thank those who continue to support me and hope that you can follow my blog at http://www.kellipike.co.nz as I move forward.  My sincerest regards.  Kelli