Waikato 125 – the women who shine

Podcast available for Episode 89 (22 June 2018).


Angela O’Leary (Hamilton West City Councillor) joins us in this episode to talk about an exciting project she’s driving called Waikato 125.  The project is calling for nominations of great Waikato women (past or present) who embody strength, vision and honour.  They will then be commemorated at a Suffrage 125 event in September.   We also discuss the lack of  Women in Politics – and what we can do to tip the balance for the 2019 elections.


Later in the episode I go on a bit of a plastic bag rant – after discovering plastic bags replacing plastic bags at Countdown…  sigh.

Continuing on with the wahine theme… Music on this show is from Auckland emo-pop band Openside; Coral (who is off to represent the Waikato in Hollywood next week!) and Tami Neilson and The Miltones (in town on August 1st).




Don’t spread your bad luck over here.

Is misfortune contagious?  If I distance myself far enough from those who experience bad luck; whether it be the loss of a loved one, redundancy or illness will I be able to continue with my privileged life and tell myself they are to blame for their circumstances?  Because it is their fault, isn’t it?  They chose to live like this, they clearly couldn’t afford to have children and their unemployment is a result of bad choices.  If I try understand the circumstances the vulnerable are in, if I attempt to help them, and if I see them as people – just like me – what will happen?  Will the gap between my life of privilege and their existence narrow?  There are two types of people in the world – those who see the bundle of blankets in a door way, recoil in disgust, judge and then think nothing of it until they next have to walk past; and those who see the people.

Which one are you?  I’m going to admit, I think I’m more of the first.  I don’t understand, and what I don’t understand – I don’t like much.  I’m certainly not alone.  Take the “Your help, may harm” campaign, rolled out in Hamilton last year.  “Your help, may harm”.  Look at that.  You are great, privileged and generous – now distance yourself.  Now, you don’t even have to fumble around in your pocket pretending to look for $2 – you can walk past – with a cursory nod to the poster on the dairy wall and go buy that takeaway coffee.  I can distance myself further.  Great.

It’s not just dirty old men in sleeping bags I’m avoiding.  What if, I found myself single, unemployed (because who can afford childcare anyway) and on a <shock horror> benefit?  I’d be smoking at the kitchen table while watching Jeremy Kyle in no time.  I don’t want to be like that.  I don’t want society to judge me.  There are two types of people in the world when it comes to the fallout surrounding Green party co-leader Meteria Turei’s admission last week.  The one who thought – “OMG benefit fraud – she has no morals – she has to go!” and the one who thought – “I’m glad she chose to use this example to make welfare an election issue”.  Shouldn’t it always be one? I admit I am judgmental at times – but I’m in the second camp here, I wholeheartedly support what she did.  How can we judge a parent for wanting to make sure their kid is fed?  How can we act so shocked and disgusted when let’s be honest, it’s impossible to navigate our social welfare systems and no-one on a benefit is raking it in.  It barely covers the cost of living.  But, I understand… fraud is ripping off the tax payer – people like you and me who pay taxes.  I would never do that.

Don’t have children if you can’t afford them they say?  Jesus, I’d love to know how many of us actually planned to have kids.  Were you in a long term relationship? – did you save and plan for that kid?  I’m glad your child wasn’t born with an illness or disability, I’m glad you didn’t lose your income during that time.  Lucky our circumstances stayed the same eh?

Redundancy hurts.  Well, not for me personally – but I’ve heard it does.  I’m skilled, educated and have mediocre social skills – I’ll never have a problem getting a job.  Will I?

I have a choice now.  I can continue just “being lucky” until my time is up – and then become “one of them”… that pile in a doorway – that mother who has to lie to WINZ to survive, or that person who has to apply for 100 jobs before being successful.  I can plan on being lucky – or I can share luck, build resilience and demand better social services for the vulnerable.  I can discard the judgment, use my luck and privilege; and help in any way I can.

There are community organisations picking up where our central government misses the mark.  We can help them.  We can volunteer our time, skills or money to help improve our communities.  We can give as little or much as we like.  Everyone has something to share.  Find yours.  Get involved.  Don’t turn a blind eye.  Luck isn’t finite. While politics seems irrelevant – there’s no denying central government has the ability to respond to community momentum too.  They represent us.  The government does what we want – or it goes… that’s how it works.  Encourage the young, and poor to vote – if you know any.  And if you are privileged, if you’ve had luck – consider sharing it.   Vote for the greater good this year.  Vote for a fair and equal society.  There is no science backing the idea that misfortune spreads.


Bustle, a nest of ethical fashion

Bustle Hamilton
Visit Bustle for beautiful, ethical and quality clothing.

Bustle caters for women who love fashion with a conscience.  Susie’s carefully curated collections are a mix of new and recycled designer fashion.


She also stocks NZ label Widdess who are known for simple styles with natural textiles.  No need for me to tell you that that makes it socially and environmentally ethical.



The clothing is beautifully complemented by Hydrangea Ranger, another small New Zealand business who handcrafts whimsical gifts and accessories.

Hydrangea Ranger: Lotus hands incense or flower holder
Acorn necklaces… aren’t these gorgeous?

In these times of fast fashion, it’s refreshing to find a business which does the opposite with small quantities of high quality fashion.  I’m extremely pleased to be able to share that Bustle is sponsoring Kelli from the Tron on FreeFM89.0.  This helps to ensure that local voices are given bigger voices.

Bustle is open from 10-4pm Thursday and Friday and 10-3pm Saturday.  Make sure you give the page a like for updates and follow @bustle_river_road on Instagram.  

Am I a feminist?

This Wednesday, the 8th of March is International Women’s Day with the theme #beboldforchange.  This got me thinking… “am I a feminist”?  When the New Zealand media recently reported that Bill English didn’t know if he was a one; and that Paula Bennet was a feminist “on most days” – I saw the media’s contempt for their uncertainty and lack-lustre affirmation as a challenge for me to decide where I drew my line of lipstick on the mirror.

I know that I am one of the privileged ones; because I haven’t experienced blatant sexism – or felt disadvantaged because of my sex.  I’d always thought of a feminist as someone with hairy arm pits, brandishing a loud speaker and protest signs about how much they hate men.  But is that even a fair representation of what a feminist is?


I decided to go back to basics and googled it.  The definition of Feminism is “someone who advocates for  social, political, legal, and economic rights for women equal to those of men”.  Well that all sounds rather reasonable to me – and I think it would be difficult to find a female who didn’t think those rights should automatically be extended… But there is one word that stands out there… “advocates”; and something else that becomes apparent… if it is so reasonable why are women reluctant to call themselves a feminist?

Let’s start with “advocate”.  An advocate is a verb… so subconsciously wanting and expecting to see equal rights fall into your lap isn’t the same as taking steps to ensure that women achieve those rights by influencing social, political, legal or economic outcomes.  The difference is action.


Do you do anything to improve the rights of women? We know sign waving, passionate speeches and petitions and forums to those in positions of power are overt actions. Blogging, signing online petitions and sharing “Beyonce style motivational “girl power” posts” on social media are passive but still actions which many of us do.  In fact – I’d argue that the act of supporting women – just because they are women is feminism.  Women and men supporting women in business, in politics, in mother’s groups… against women’s violence, for pay equity are all expressions of feminism.


So why the reluctance to call ourselves feminists?  Is it the stereotype scaring us away from claiming the “feminist” title? or is it that we don’t think we do enough to earn it?  What is enough to earn it?

This year the theme for International Women’s Day is #beboldforchange.  Will you be bold?

Angela O’Leary for Hamilton West

As the elections loomed, I contacted Angela to ask if we could have a coffee.  I don’t know any Councillors (or ex Councillors) so wanted to get a first hand opinion on “the job” before ‘applying’.  Despite the fact, we’d basically be campaigning for the same votes she was open, honest and extremely supportive.  While, at a practical level – her advice was to make sure I got a “good photo” and effective 150 word bio for the candidate booklet (the same advice as Cnr Chesterman who I’d spoken to regarding the Railway Buildings) her support went much further.


Angela founded and chairs Women in Politics.  It’s a group set up to support women in elected positions.  I can see how difficult being in public office would be (especially as an independent) but I could also see some of the added challenges that women have to overcome to even put their name forward.  So clearly this idea resonated for me.  If you haven’t read my previous post on Women in Politics I urge you to check it out.

Since then, I’ve caught up with her briefly at a few events and I like her.  I appreciate her support but respect her for other reasons.

I heard her label herself as “a worker bee” – which I totally get.  (Actually you should check out her recent radio interview with Paul the Other one where they cover lots of the current political issues).  She gets on with the job she is elected for.  She sits on various (optional) committees, chairs the Strategy and Policy committee (which in my opinion is the interesting one) and has worked on the “nitty gritty” for plans such as Frankton, the River plan, the Central city transformation plan etc etc.  Basically any of the plans which involved having a vision for the city with actionable steps… she was on it.  I feel that her and Mayor Hardaker were instrumental in leading the way from an overgrown farming town to one which is fast becoming a vibrant and cosmopolitan city which values public spaces and art.  These are the things which make Hamilton a great place to visit.

Now, while it’s hard for first time candidates to get their foot in the door – the challenges of incumbents is multi-faceted.  You are subject to constant criticism for decisions you made with voting and have limited ability to express your own opinion, or refute and communicate rationale.  Over this election, there are two issues that I personally want cleared up.

Angela is not for WATER METERS.  Urrghhhh this is such an annoying ‘non-issue’.  Some candidates have chosen to use this as their campaign platform – it lacks objectivity and is bordering on scare-mongering.  There is not one candidate who wants water meters.  The possibility of residential meters is jumping to conclusions.  What she (and other incumbents) have voted for is considering a CCO.  A CCO will save the city money – and (hopefully) improve efficiency in water services.  A CCO does not necessarily mean privatisation.  Councillors do have a lot of power – but not enough to push that through so please don’t vote based on “who signed the water meters pledge”.

One of the issues that has been raised at candidate meetings (even though its “too late”) is the one about pensioner housing being sold.  At the candidate meeting on Monday Angela was asked her position on this by a lady at our table (and rightly so as a lot of people have voiced concern and disagreement).  I’m undecided on the issue myself because I don’t have enough info – but the rationale she provided was so objective that you couldn’t argue with it.  I personally think the council failed in communicating to the pensioners properly but a representative council involves having people with different viewpoints.  Hers basically came down to her belief that an outsider (private investor) would be able to ensure that the tenants were better looked after.  The Council has been proven to neglect assets (*cough* Founders) and is so big that it cannot respond to tenant enquiries as quickly as someone whose sole focus is on that.  I’m sure there’s more to the story but I must say I was impressed by her response.

I guess it sums up that she is diplomatic and a pragmatist.  Her objective consideration of information is what we are asking of Councillors.  We don’t want people with agendas… and I honestly don’t believe she has one.  She’s just wanting to serve the public by balancing pros and cons and getting the job done.  I’ll be voting for her – and absolutely believe she deserves a fourth term.

P.S  This does not mean that I will agree with her all the time – it means I agree with how she forms her decisions.

Dislaimer: My opinion and I’m not asking you to agree.

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.


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.


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).


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.

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!!)


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.