INVERCARGILL city councillors have praised the idea of hosting an event to engage and attract more people and diversity on the council.
Invercargill City Council (ICC) chief executive Clare Hadley presented a report during Tuesday’s performance, policy and partnerships meeting, suggesting a budget of $25,000 to host an event in March to encourage a more representative and diverse council.
The report confirmed comments from the ICC’s representation review’s community panel which said the council should address the matter.
The proposed budget includes $7500 for a high-profile national media personality to emcee the event, aimed at the 25-50 age group.
“It is proposed to hold a public event in March 2022 with experienced politicians speaking on the rewards and pitfalls of holding office, and other information candidates may want to know,” Ms Hadley said.
“As the demographics for the city change, it would be beneficial for the demographics around the council table to better reflect its community.”
Cr Lesley Soper said there was an old saying that any publicity was good publicity and she believed, in this case, anything council could do to increase the involvement, participation and engagement was better.
“I’m not going to say that could get any worse because it could, of course, get a lot worse. We could go back to a very monochrome council that is demonstrated in some of the photos hanging in the wall in our foyer. However, I really think this initiative is such a good way to proceed.”
Local government was almost at the “tipping point” if looking at the turnout of last election which was “abysmal”, she said.
“Anything we can do, it can only help to improve the situation.”
ICC had a 53.01% voter turnout at the most recent election.
Cr Lindsay Abbott agreed and said diversity was very important – however he highlighted it was important to preserve and recognise that not only young people could be educated about local policy.
“Even in the older age group, there is exuberance.”
Councillors unanimously approved the idea and council staff would start to approach speakers in the next months.