October 8th is polling day for the 2016 local body elections, and many of you are surely wondering “why should I care”? Across the country only 42% of New Zealanders cast their vote in the 2013 local elections, with turnout being even lower in the 18-34 demographic. The politics game has a great many perceptions, almost all of which are negative: “politicians don’t listen”, “money-wasting bureaucrats”, “don’t raise my taxes”, “my vote doesn’t have an impact”. But the reality is that elections, from national down to local-level, have a huge impact on our daily lives. At the local level, the Mayors and Councillors we elect next month will set the district and regional agendas for the next three years or more, determining what level of importance and resources should be allocated to issues ranging from roading to buses, event management to rubbish collection, tourism to conservation. As citizens living in a free and democratic country, it is essential to the public good that as many of us as possible engage with the process and cast informed votes on that day.
Through Use Good Stuff we aim to inform and educate Joe Public about the importance of issues like climate change, conservationism and little changes you can make to help reduce your footprint on the environment. And, while social media is an effective vehicle for drawing attention to issues and mobilising individuals to a cause, a Facebook group or a Twitter trend are unlikely to be impactful in engendering the sort of change needed to avert our current disastrous trajectory. And while it can be equally argued that local body politics does not have an impact at that scale, it is the first step for empowering the masses to engage in the political process, reduce the apathy that has taken hold in recent decades, and ultimately force the Government to act on the colossal challenges facing planet as a whole, as well as our little piece of it.
So many people (especially the millennials) feel either excluded from the political process, or that the barriers to entry are too high in terms of developing an informed opinion. But the reality is that in Aotearoa there are so many issues and challenges which can be negated, and opportunities which can be seized, if the voting public tell the candidates that enough is enough and changes need to be made. Every region and town has its own unique landscape of challenges and chances, but our three main urban centres tend to receive the bulk of the media coverage (and not for no mean reason). Christchurch continues to regenerate from the catastrophe which struck it in 2011; Wellington faces challenges ranging from roading and public transport through to housing; and in Auckland the average house price is nearing $1m.
While these are the issues which grab the mainstream public eye, they are discrete issues within an overarching ecosystem of pollution, environmental degradation and overconsumption. Generation Zero have compiled an absolutely awesome scorecard system of Mayoral, local council and regional council candidates in several main centres. Candidates were asked for their views and policies on the issue of climate change, and received an A-through-E ranking based on the scoring guidelines. This is a clear and user-friendly tool to help inform you about the candidates and where they stand on the issues closest to you.
Don’t let apathy be the winner this election. The investment of time and energy in determining your candidates is small, compared to the consequences of a system which continues to ignore the big issues while overplaying the trivial. VOTE!
header image via greatnewsmag.com
Matt’s very professional corporate headshot via martinjenkins.co.nz