Local govt reps want more rangatahi on councils

By Talisa Kupenga

Younger regional council representatives want more young people to run in local body elections.  They say diversity is needed, with 94 percent of councillors nationwide over the age of 40.

31-year-old Maungakiekie-Tāmaki councillor Nerissa Henry says, “We really need more young people standing.  It's really crucial for the changes and everything that's happening and we are the biggest demographic across New Zealand."

Of 1,607 community and local board members nationwide only 6 percent are under 40-years-old.

South Taranaki district councillor Bonita Bigham (Ngaruahine, Te Āti Awa) says, "It's shocking and that's one of the statistics we want to see change.  We need to help our young people.  I'm the youngest person on my council and I'm closer to 50 than 40."

Henry says, "Only one percent currently out of all local government elected members are 30-years and under so the more representation we get on boards the better."

38-year-old Bay of Plenty councillor Arapeta Tahana says, "It is a big deal for youth to be on our councils so they can change the thinking and the culture of these boards."

Candidates in their 20's and 30's are stepping up and Bigham hopes this also brings more Māori and Pasifika representation.

"They key to this kind of role is asking questions when you don't understand something and contributing your perspective because that's what's really important.  Otherwise we just turn into puppets.  We don't need puppets, we need our people speaking up."

Henry says, "I feel people will relate more and think 'cool there is someone who looks like me who might be in the same situation as me' and then vote."

Local government nominations open July 19.  Voting closes October 12.