Timaru mayor invites younger people to stand for council in by-election

Timaru mayor Damon Odey is keen to get younger people more involved with the council, and has suggested they put their ...
JOHN BISSET/FAIRFAX NZ

Timaru mayor Damon Odey is keen to get younger people more involved with the council, and has suggested they put their names forward for the by-election if they are interested.

Timaru's mayor has invited young people to "have a crack" at local politics, saying the upcoming byelection is the perfect opportunity to get involved. 

The resignation of councillor Tracy Tierney has triggered a byelection for the Timaru District Council, to be held in September. 

Mayor Damon Odey said while there were people in their 30s and 40s on the council now, it would be nice to have a wider range of ages from the community. 

"Historically local government has got a lot of older bods," he said.

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"If they want to give it a crack, now's the time."

The Timaru District Council's youth council was disbanded this year and councillor Sally Parker had set out to find other ways of engaging with 15-to-24-year-olds, Odey said. 

Council candidates had to be 18-years-old, a New Zealand citizen and on the electoral roll before they could run for the by-election. 

Better engagement with the district's young people was also raised as an issue during the 2016 local government election.

Ahead of the election, Timaru high school students spoken to said they felt the council was not trying hard enough to engage with younger voters, and few believed they had a good understanding of what the role of local government was.

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Despite that, there were many local government issues that concerned the teens spoken to, including parking, street lighting, and what they described as a lack of activities for young people in South Canterbury.

Public transport, or the lack of it, was another point of concern.

The council temporarily suspended the youth council in March, coming under fire from former members. 

Parker said at the time a host of resignations created an opportunity to have another look at how the council engaged with younger people. 

Parker could not be reached for comment on Wednesday afternoon, but fellow councillor Steve Wills said the more diverse the council's representation, the better.

More young people would be welcome, and also people who came from different cultural backgrounds, he said.

However Wills thought the challenge for younger people would be getting to grips with some of the complex council processes.

"You have to want to learn, and to want to be involved," he said.

Becoming a councillor was a great opportunity to give something back to the community, Wills said. 

"I know there's people out there in the community who would love to put their hand up." 

Currently the council is comprised of two women, Parker and Andrea Leslie, and seven men, including the mayor. 

Three candidates who stood unsuccessfully last year, Owen "OJ" Jackson, Heather Woolstencroft, and former district councillor Anthony Brien, have said they intend to put their names forward for the by-election, but no nominations have been confirmed yet. 

Information packs about standing for the by-election were available from the council, or on the council website, timaru.govt.nz

 - The Timaru Herald

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