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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Open letter to the Waikato Regional Council to pay contractors a Living Wage

“A Living Wage is the income necessary to provide workers and their families with the basic necessities of life. The Living Wage enables workers to live with dignity and to participate as active citizens in society”.   

Please take a minute to sign this Open letter to the Waikato Regional Council to pay contractors a Living Wage.  

Why does this matter to me and you?  I personally don’t understand how employers can justify not paying employees what it costs to live.  Unfortunately our government allows this to happen by legislating a minimum wage – which is far lower than what people need to pay their bills.  It will take leadership and political will to address this, and we’re starting with local councils.  If you’re already on a Living Wage that’s great – please help support this for your friends and whanau.  If you aren’t on a Living Wage yet, signing will start a flow on effect.  You can find out more about bringing this movement to your workplace on Living Wage Aotearoa’s website.

We have to acknowledge the Waikato Regional Council already pay directly employed staff a Living Wage – so this open letter is to ask them to extend to contractors, like bus drivers and cleaners.  Rumour has it the Waikato District Health Board is about to pilot a Living Wage, which is fantastic.  Unfortunately Hamilton City Council is lagging a little behind – but let’s hope they are watching Wellington City Council who became accredited this year.   Tautoko this movement. 

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Episode 105 – Hamilton residents and ratepayers association and Albi & the Wolves

This week Ray from the Hamilton residents and ratepayers association joined us to talk about the association, their priorities and how we can get involved if we are equally concerned about Council’s spending of ratepayer money.

We are joined by Chris Dent, from Auckland based band Albi & the Wolves ahead of their gig at Nivara Lounge next week.

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Episode 104 – Chlöe Swarbrick – Green Party MP on mental health and civic participation

In this podcast we are joined by Chlöe Swarbrick from the Green Party of Aotearoa.   She is their spokesperson for Mental Health, Drug Law Reform, Education, Arts and Heritage, Tertiary Education, Small Business, Broadcasting, Youth and Local Government.

I invited her onto the show to talk about her current priorities – which are within drug reform and mental health but also to share ways she thinks we might improve participation in local body politics.  If you don’t have time to listen to the hour long podcast you can skip to the 10 min mark, with the interview lasting approximately 15 minutes. 17798927_453663108302667_3009415273109823992_n.jpg

Chlöe entered politics in 2016, running for the Auckland Mayoralty as a result of not hearing the issues she, and other young people thought were important.  While unsuccessful at the time she undoubtedly helped young people see the relevance of local councils in decisions that effect us day to day.

Listen to the podcast – you’ll also hear songs from local band Looking for Alaska, Auckland’s Albi & the Wolves, Tauranga based Kokomo and local artist Rubita.

Conversations around the water cooler

“She’s in childcare from 7.30-5.30pm … but it’s good for her to be socialising with other babies and it’ll give her a head start for school”.

“What did you get up to over the long weekend?”  “Oh you know, just caught up with jobs around the house.  The cars needed washed, lawns mowed – that sort of thing”.  “True, Never enough hours in the day eh?” “Nah, especially with the commute”.

“40 hour week? Good one, I’m pushing 70 hours trying to meet those deadlines. I’m lucky I can work from home so the Mrs doesn’t have a go at me”.

“What are you doing with your kids over the holidays?”  “Oh god, I don’t even want to think about it, we can’t afford the holiday program this year and I don’t have any leave left”.

“The Board says we have to tighten our belts, so HR will be looking at workloads and restructuring – it’ll mean a loss in jobs…  Don’t panic, we’ll make sure we honour our contractual obligations in the event of redundancy”.

“Are you coming to the gym later?” “Nah, I can’t.  I have to work late to make up for taking time off to take Mum to hospital last week”.

“I had a chat to the Manager about the role they’re advertising” “Oh yeah, what did he say?” “He reckons I can get it but I’ll have to go full time if I want it”. “Yeah, the good jobs are always full time”.

While Labour day is just a day off to most of us, it commemorates normalisation of an 8 hour working day.  The idea is that it would give us a fair work life balance, 8 hours of work, 8 hours of recreation and 8 hours of sleep.  Nice in theory.  It seems we still have a long way to go for fair and progressive employment conditions which reflect society in 2018.  If you had to work on Monday the 22nd, Labour day check out your employer obligations

Central city park rushed through

This blog post has been edited, to remove my interpretation of a graph from the Hamilton City Council’s Long Term Plan summary, which I believed to show the majority of submitters being against the central city park.  It was pointed out, rightly so – that it shouldn’t be interpreted in that way – so I have removed it from this post so as not to be seen as ‘intentionally misleading’.  My intention for this blog is to inform as best as I can and encourage participation in civic issues, and I would never intentionally mislead or “lie”.  It’s not my style… you can find out and try to decipher the data yourself  on the HCC website.

The Council’s recent purchase of Victoria street buildings for a ‘central city park’, in my opinion blatantly ignores public feedback.  Here are the main reasons why I’m frustrated with this project and why I think the decision damages perception of our elected Council.

  1.  The Mayor admitted this was a boyhood dream.  As far as I’m concerned the only projects that should cross the Council table in a 10 year plan review are ones the community has asked for and where there has been a reasonable amount of legwork with the public / ratepayers.  In political speak this is “taking the residents with them on the journey”.  This project was rushed through.
  2. The true cost was and is largely a mystery.  Even Rob Pascoe, Hamilton East Councillor and former Accountant disagreed with the proposed budget for buying and demolishing the buildings.  That’s sure to kick us in the butt later…
  3. The integrity of the project was questionable.  Accusations about dodgy back door deals flew around and were taken seriously enough to call Audit NZ to do a report on the process taken to buy the buildings.  The report was held until after the project was given the tick…
  4. It’s in my opinion that the public is not in favour of this part of the overall River plan, in fact I think the Council has done a poor job of communicating what this proposal actually entails.  However, there is no clear data showing this – which is another symptom of the park not going through robust processes.

The central city park project was rushed, not costed properly and with a process already considered by some as dodgy, it was inexcusable for Councillors to disregard the loud public opinion against the proposal.  When residents don’t feel they are listened to it does irreparable harm which we’ve seen in a drop of voter turnout in 2016, and increase in negative indicators like those in the recent Quality of life survey.

Here’s the voting record for those who will use it to consider who to vote for in next year’s election.

FOR: King, Gallagher, Macpherson, Bunting, Taylor, Hamilton 
AGAINST: O’Leary, Pascoe, Tooman, Casson, Henry, Southgate
This vote was split so the Mayor used a Casting Vote FOR to break the tie.  Absent: Mallett

Read more: Central city mayhem

Martin Gallagher on why a Watchdog has been appointed to the Waikato DHB

Last month the government appointed a Crown monitor to the Waikato District Health Board to improve leadership and governance.  This appointment came after a series of well publicised, though not always completely transparent failings of the elected board.  Think back to Nigel Murray, Bob Simcock, SmartHealth and the budget blowout on the Collingwood street refurb.  The next step, if decision making doesn’t improve would be firing the board and appointing commissioners. It’s important to note that elections are only a year away but given overall lack of public understanding and participation – we shouldn’t accept election time will drastically change things.

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Martin Gallagher, who is on that board has kindly agreed to an interview and has given me permission to “ask anything” and to “not be afraid to be tough”.  Don’t mind if I do…  Earlier this year I  interviewed Sally Webb, then Acting, now Chair of the board.  While unspoken, I certainly didn’t feel I could “ask anything”.  You can listen to the podcast of that interview here (starts at 10min).

So this week I’ll ask Martin, what the role of the board is; the failings that led to a Crown monitor being appointed; how responsible he feels for some of those decisions; whether it’s time to ditch the current model; and how they are ensuring we have a sound hospital and health care service in the future.  Tune in to Free FM at 10am Friday.

Read more:  Who is on the board?

Waikato DHB gets government watchdog.

Board member calls for New Zealand district health boards to be reduced by half