Read more -Barriers to women standing in local elections
Read more -Barriers to women standing in local elections
Listen to this week’s podcast.
6m “One eye open” – Albi & The Wolves
10m INTERVIEW with Paula Southgate Hamilton City
28:30m “It ain’t easy” Albi & The Wolves
30:45m INTERVIEW continued
48:32m “Don’t blink” Cartoon Villain
50:30m Local events
54.30m “Mayday” The Recently Deceived
We’re joined by Hamilton East City Councillor, and current chair of the Community services and environment committee Paula Southgate Hamilton City She shares her journey from kindergarten committee to Hamilton City Councillor – as we talk about some of the barriers to entering politics when you have a young family.
She explains what the ‘Local indigenous biodiversity pilot’ is and why she’s ‘speaking for the bats’. Sometimes its hard to reconcile growth of cities with environmental protection – and this is a current concern with the plans for Peacocke. It seems the best way to ensure that the environment is not forgotten is to make sure the Councillors know it is a priority for you. Paula was with the Waikato Regional Council for 15 years so is well versed in environmental issues – which is a win for us as she understands the interconnections.
We discuss how we might improve feedback to council, and encourage more residents to have their say on the issues. She shared advice on encouraging some of the skilled and passionate leaders in our community to campaign for a seat at the council table next year. (Interview starts at 10min).
*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).
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).
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
It’s been nearly 20 years since I left that town with no desire to return. Last week opportunity, nostalgia and curiosity more than anything else led me back. Without realising it at the time, the short visit managed to slay a demon of sorts for me as well. Upon reflection I think part of this is because my sense of ‘belonging’ has been well and truly established somewhere else.
When many of us think back to ‘how things once were’ we think of the freedom, innocence and outdoor adventures of living in a small country town. In this respect this town had the goods and was a great place to be a kid. We could explore our surroundings without limits. It was safe. But as much as we reflect in nostalgia for how great it was, I also remember the hurry to get out.
Wyndham (population 505) is one of those towns. It’s the type of town where everyone knows everyone. Gossip is rife, but by well meaning, salt of the earth people. It’s conservative Southland. Little diversity, just white working class New Zealanders going about their life in an unassuming but flavourless way. The only claim to fame that I can think of for the town is that according to her autobiography, Janet Frame once lived there.
We drive down every street in town (trust me, this didn’t take as long as you’re imagining), most are named after people and places of the Crimean war. There was no body around. No kids biking, or even at the playground. I don’t know anyone who lives there any more either.
I was surprised how many heritage buildings there were for what had always been a small rural town. That wasn’t something I noticed as a kid. I was happy to see a handful of houses being restored, like ‘the Doctors house’ and noticed the Catholic church is now a private residence. There has always been the odd empty shop on the main street, but I was astounded with how many more had joined them – and how many had been demolished. Another telltale sign that things are quiet is seeing corrugated iron boarding up windows or rotten boards on a main street. Like in movies. The post office still grand, still the light pink it has been as long as I’ve known it – has missed out on the lick of paint that would have made it a landmark to be proud of. I marveled at the main town intersection – which anywhere else would be a roundabout… here… a hodge podge of streets meeting.
I wander down some roads and reserves and reminisce about where I tried my first cigarette (which fortunately was a bad experience), saw a stash of playboys hidden in a bush, by who knows, and learnt how to start fires with dried grass and twigs. I gazed over the fence which we used to go through to get to our swimming spot in the Mataura river. The smell of that river has stayed with me. I wonder how we were allowed to swim there unsupervised… I’m struggling to remember if it’s always looked this vast.
Finally the high school beckons… I was astounded at how small some of the buildings looked. At least 25% smaller than I remember. Though in essence it looks the same. Native wood, formica and industrial metal lends itself to a timelessness. Of all of the buildings, it’s the school hall that conjures up the most memories. I re-imprint the school emblem above the stage. Integrity. The rows of stacked wooden bench seats are still there.
I think about how many people like myself are holding their breath in assembly and class so they aren’t noticed. How many hover at the back so they might get through another day without dying more on the inside. Surprised at the memories that flood back. Some good… more bad. Everything looks more overgrown on the steps outside the hall. Did it always look like this? So sad? I look at the grass field. It’s massive compared to many schools now and I vaguely remember we had the biggest field per capita. But it was never big enough to hide on.
Which brings me to wanting to tell you this, if you’re wishing away each day like I did. You will get through this. I got through it. Each day drags; hell a lunchtime can feel never-ending. Another year will pass, then another. Then one day it’ll be over. You wont need to endure it to get your education, placate your parents with your attendance and get your ticket the hell out of there. Start again. I wish I’d known how small that school was, how small that town was so that I might have been able to understand that it didn’t define me. It’s not my home any more. Who you are at school doesn’t have to be who you are when you leave. Create a new life. As many times as you want. Don’t like your job change it. Don’t like your town change it. Move. It’s up to you. Breathe. Dream and Go. Get the heck out of there, this doesn’t have to be your home. It’s not mine any more.