Support for more diversity

Southland branch president Rebecca Amundsen will be part of an event with all elected women to push for more diversity within councils.

AN INVERCARGILL councillor is calling for more diversity in local bodies throughout the region.

With about six months to the local body elections and the debate about the future of local government, Rebecca Amundsen believes it has never been so important to talk about the subject.

She acknowledged the issues of representation were slowly getting better at council level – however, there was still a long way to go.

In her first term as a councillor nine years ago, Mrs Amundsen was one of two women at council and one of two people aged under 40.

“There was a councillor who has been in council for longer than I’ve been alive and two councillors who were twice as old as me so we can say it was very old school.”

In 2016, the diversity improved with five women elected and four people aged under 40, she said.

In the last election, in 2019, at the Southland District Council, four of the elected members were female, while Invercargill City Council had three, and Environment Southland just two.

Each council has 12 councillors.

“Talk about how we can be more diverse is vitality important – especially with the changes happening in local government.

“It is really important to try our best to ensure our council reflects our community in terms of the diversity that we have.”

Using her hat as Southland branch president of the National Council of Women of New Zealand, Mrs Amundsen in inviting all the elected women from the region’s councils and ILT to debate the issue, while encouraging new candidates to come forward.

She said Monday’s event was planned to be held as part of Kind Women Trust’s women festival in August last year.

However, the impact of Covid-19 in the region forced the event to be cancelled.

The National Council of Women of New Zealand usually promotes a debate with women candidates in every election – but has decided to promote the event on Monday to help and support potential candidates to understand the council’s role.

“Running people [candidates] often don’t know what councillors do. They only know what they see in the media and it doesn’t really reflect the whole picture.”

One of the biggest challenges facing candidates in the region was the remuneration, she said.

“The remuneration is population based so that means you are not remunerated as a full-time job so unfortunately you can’t rely on this as your sole income.

“For people who have their own business or are retired, it’s much more straight-forward than a school teacher who has set times of working.”

She said it was paramount to discuss this matter and try to get a solution for more diversity and more young people to stand for council.

All women elected from Gore and Southland district councils, Invercargill City Council and the ILT were invited to be part of the discussion panel, she said.

“We are hoping existing elected members can provide ongoing support for those who are thinking to run for council.”

The event, What’s the deal with getting elected?, will be held at the Invercargill city library on Monday, March 28, at 7pm.