Getting out to vote: Youth and the 2019 local elections

I was recently on the panel of “Getting out to vote: Youth and the 2019 local elections” hosted by the University of Waikato). If you missed it, here’s the script I was supposed to stick to…

Hannah Huggan / Candra Pullon / Chloe Swarbrick / Me / Tomairangai McRae

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.

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Episode 141: Politics and Music

Kelli from the Tron is a show about local politics, the environment and social issues for the Tron. Listen to the latest episode here (July 19th) www.bit.do/kellifromthetron

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.

Listen to the latest episode here (July 19th) www.bit.do/kellifromthetron

Podcast: Politics with Paul

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).

New candidates include Matthew Small, Meleane Burgess, Louise Hutt, Anna Smart, Tim Young and Kesh Naidoo-Rauf.  Please spend time from now until October getting to know more about the people who want to make city decisions – on your behalf.

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. 

Have a listen to the podcast – let us know what you think!

Disclaimer:  Our own un-paid opinions.  Please feel free to clarify facts if we get them wrong – we do try to be fair. Please join me in thanking Hamilton Taxis for sponsoring local content on Free FM.

Episode 132: Climate (in)action and uncomfortable words

In this podcast I wrap up the week in local political news (Hamilton NZ).  Have a listen or check out the summary below…..

Hamilton’s 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 solutions.

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.

We had the first candidate announcement for the Waikato Regional Council, with former CEO of the Waikato Chamber of Commerce William Durning putting his hat in the ring.  

Cycleways, infill, foamy rivers and the Tron express. Episode #130

Listen to the podcast www.bit.do/kellifromthetron

I read through some local news, before being joined by Paul Barlow for ‘our own political opinions’.

What makes a good campaign? Who sets the agenda? Does it even matter?

Music: the NEW track from Cheshire Grimm, the latest from Strangely Arousing and a tribute to dDub.

This Free FM show is supported by Hamilton Taxi’s so please show your thanks by flagging them when you need a taxi.

Listen to the podcast www.bit.do/kellifromthetron
or tune in to Free FM89.0 at 9am Saturday for the encore.
http://player.wizz.co.nz/freefm89/

The good, the bad and the ugly of local politics this week.

Paul Barlow aka Paul the Other One joined me on Kelli from the Tron this week, for our monthly political korero – and what a month it was! We discussed the importance of researching candidates before voting; how to fire an elected member (spoiler alert you have to wait until election time) and if the role of councillor is a full time job. #WhatDoTheyEvenDo?

Listen to the Free FM89.0 podcast here. With thanks to our sponsor
Hamilton Taxis! for their ongoing support of Free FM. (Hamilton Taxi’s views are not necessarily the same as those shared on this show… obviously).

The first week of April started with what can only be described as a “sh*t storm” with national media interest in the actions and views of two of our city councillors James Casson and Siggi Henry.

If you missed it – Two Hamilton city councillors spark outrage

During the past month Paula Southgate (current east ward Councillor) announced her intention to run for mayoralty. She joined me on the show last week. It was at the same time as a National remembrance service in Christchurch so we decided not to focus on politics, but on inclusive and supported communities. Have a listen to that interview here.

Meleane Burgess announced her intention to run for an East ward seat. As a new candidate (though ran in the by-election last year) I encourage you to follow her Facebook page for updates so you can make an informed vote this October. Read more: Founder of Waikato Pacific Business Network to stand for Hamilton City Council.

Because two councillors managed to make the whole city look bad, I invited elected members to send in a few words about things we can be proud of this week. Because believe me, there is more good than bad – it just doesn’t get the media coverage.

Ryan Hamilton Great to connect with the Rototuna residents last week as multiple parts of council came together to hear from the community and to show parts of the organisation that don’t often get much visibility and to set a new and refreshing standard and means of engaging better with our people in the grassroots of their community (and of course being replicated for Peacockes at the Glenview Wananga today).

Dave Mac Over the last few days I’ve posted several critical thoughts on social media comments by Councillor James Casson regarding the Christchurch terrorist massacre and issues flowing from that.
While I can’t take back what I’ve said – and nor can James – we’ve met face to face today at my initiative, and talked through most of the issues. 
I can see that James is trying to make amends for hurt that he’s caused, and I want us both to be able to move forwards, as we both have plenty of work to do as city councillors. At my own initiative, I’ve therefore deleted my posts relating to James’ comments, to avoid making things worse for him and the Council, who have copped a lot of criticism as well.
I look forward to all of us learning from the conditions and circumstances that led to the Christchurch massacre, and all of us doing our bit to make sure something like that never happens again.

Siggi Henry  I just got some great news yesterday after pushing for two years to have recycling bins installed at Claudelands Event Centre. It’s happening.

Mark Bunting Something we can be proud of is the great work our staff have put into our ‘Play Strategy’. It is a clear vision of how we become a more playful city, how we can enjoy living in Hamilton more and make transport, the arts, our parks, our sports grounds and even our waste and waters more enjoyable for Hamiltonians. It is extremely cool, and I’d love to show it to you. I also think this week’s speed management plan is fantastic, but I have it on good authority that some media commentators might find that ‘boring’! Lol! 

Martin Gallagher. “Wednesday night’s Peacocke and Southeast Hamilton Open Day was an outstanding example of the way our Council and our community can come together and learn from each other.

I was delighted to be there with close to 1000 Hamiltonians, all keen to find out more about what the Council is doing to enable a new neighbourhood in Peacocke. We’ve talked about growth in Peacocke for decades, but now it’s happening. We had 50 staff and partner agency representatives involved at Te Waananga o Aotearoa in Glenview and I have to say they did a wonderful job. They answered hundreds and hundreds of questions about everything from the new bridge over the Waikato River to bus services, roundabouts and what we’re doing to look after our critically endangered long-tail bats”.

Paula Southgate. “I’m happy to be talking about biodiversity in cities at the Waikato Show tomorrow. I’m also pleased about a successful vote to keep the iSite open …even if it has to move”.

Angela O’Leary “The Meteor celebrating their 5th birthday soon, our new approach to engagement with our Peacocke and Rototuna Open Days, the new Play Strategy, Western Town Belt plan, the next stage of Ham Gardens development, our new sustainability strategy, the new fenced dog park”.

SEE!! It’s not all bad! Let me know if you think THAT should be a regular segment of the show.

One last thing… Electioneering Women Wanted.
Women interested in putting their hand up to run in the local elections this year, are welcome to attend a free workshop on campaigning / networking opportunity. Email me politicsinthetron@gmail.com if you have questions about the event or want to RSVP. We’re also interested in women who want to come along to support new candidates. Join the event on facebook for updates.

Ma te wa e hoa maa. Kelli from the Tron airs at 10am every Friday on Free FM89.0.

Waikato wāhine: Hilda Ross

Telling Stories: Waikato Wāhine is an exploration into the lives of trailblazing Waikato women. Over five weeks I will tell the stories of a politician, businesswomen, artist, activist and Te Ao Maori leader.

This week: Dame Hilda Ross was Hamilton’s first politician – a National Party MP known for lecturing parents, I looked into her story to find why she was so influential, well liked and what we can learn from her story.

Telling Stories: Waikato Wāhine debuts today on Free FM 89.0 at 5pm
📲 live streamed via the Access Internet Radio NZ app, via TuneIn or from freefm.org.nz

or listen to the podcast right now via this link
http://bit.do/WaikatoWahine-DameHildaRoss

This Free FM series is supported by the Ministry for Women, New Zealand Suffrage 125 community fund and Browsers Bookshop in Hamilton.