Do boards reflect our community?

More than a quarter of West Auckland's population are of Maori or Pacific Island origin but they are not represented on any of the three local boards.

The Western Leader canvassed West Auckland's local board members to see how closely our elected members reflected the community.

We asked if they were born in New Zealand, which age group they fit into and which ethnicity and political viewpoint they belonged to.

Despite knowing their names wouldn't be attributed to the data only 14 of the 21 members answered our questions, with Denise Yates and Tracy Kirkley refusing to reveal their age group.

Whau board's Jack Weir and Henderson Massey's Vanessa Neeson refused to give any answers, citing the Human Rights Act as a reason.

Lily Ho, Sandy Taylor, Assid Corban, Warren Flaunty and Ross Dallow did not answer our emails or phone calls.

Mr Weir says despite Maori and Pacific candidates running for local boards their key support groups are less likely to get out and vote in local body elections.

"I think there is a general misconception as to the importance of local bodies. Maori and Pacific people get out and vote for national elections but there is a reluctance in local ones," he says.

"It could be that there are too many people standing and it's confusing."

He says it can be harder to figure out what each candidate represents because most people stand as independents.

"I don't like parties and local politics have to represent the people not the party.

"Having said that I think too many people get elected on name recognition alone."

According to Statistics New Zealand the Maori population of West Auckland makes up 12.2 per cent of the total and the Pacific population makes up 15 per cent.

Europeans make up 55.5 per cent and Asians make up 17.3 per cent.

Ms Neeson says she represents all ethnicities in her area and despite a lack of elected officials there are appointed panels to represent ethnic communities.

"We do consult with the difference ethnic groups. The advisory groups have a say at governing body level."

Pacific Peoples Advisory Panel chairman Uesifili Unasa says there is a disengagement between Pacific Islanders and the political process.

"They often have a different set of priorities.

"They don't have the time to engage with the issues because they may have two or three jobs or large families to look after."

A 2006 UMR research paper called Maori Electoral Engagement - A Review of Existing Data found that Maori who do not vote are more likely to be enrolled on the general roll rather than the Maori roll.

"It may be that they are disengaged from Maori politics just as much as they are disengaged from national and regional politics.

"The data also suggests that Maori non-voters do not regard the opportunity to vote for Maori candidates as sufficiently motivating to get them to vote."

It also found that low income and youth, which is more prominent in the Maori population, could be a factor in their decision not to vote.

Of the members who did respond to our questions the youngest age demographic identified was 50-60.

Throughout Auckland 62 per cent of eligible voters are under 50 and 38 per cent of voters are over 50.

Henderson Massey Local Board member Leo Nobilo says young people have got other things to do such as focusing on their careers and paying off mortgages.

"It's up to them to get involved, it's open to everybody. If they do want to get involved joining a ratepayers' group is the way I did it," he says.

"I've really enjoyed my time here doing some good for the community."

Western Leader