Running for council as a young Māori
Non Nobis Solum | Not For Ourselves Alone
This is both the motto of Whangarei and the main message of my campaign standing as a candidate for the Denby Ward of Whangarei District Council in the 2019 Local Body Elections.
"I am standing as an example for youth" - Shaquille Shortland
I wanted to support youth, Māori and other ethnic community champions to run for council to increase diversity amongst oir councillors. However, I realised there were not many examples for me to use to encourage them to stand.
"Why would I put my youth in a vulnerable, unknown space?"
With that, I decided to stand and navigate that space before I nudge anyone else forward in to such an unknown space for youth and Māori in Whangarei.
Here are the pros & cons of standing for Council as a young Māori in Whangarei.:
The pros FAR outweigh any negatives experienced during my campaign so here are five of the most standout postives I experienced in no particular order;
1) Exposure - I was exposed to spaces that I don't usually dwell in. You can usually find me jet setting around the country at anything Youth, anything Cultural and anything Governance centric, at the local Marae hui or teaching / running workshops on Te Reo and Te Tiriti o Waitangi. This campaign took me out of those spaces and found me sitting in Meet the candidate meetings, where Māori and youth were scarce, Political facebook forums and civic workshops were a few of the other new spaces I had found myself in and enjoyed the new learnings!
Through the exposure of standing for council I have been offered several different governance board positions, meet and greet and guest speaker opportunities and I have received lots of support by different people, communities and organisations throughout Whangarei such as Innonative and NewYorkLabs.
2) Relationships - You forge many new relationships with other candidates as well as meet passionate, like-minded people in your community who are voting for you.
This has been one of the greatest fruits. Meeting great people in the community who have similar goals at heart. I met locals as well as other young Māori running for council accross the country such as Tania Tapsell (Rotorua) and Piri-hira Tukapua (Horowhenua) and many others through a free rangatahi civics and governance workshop hosted by Auckland Council.
As well as candidates of whom I have bonded well with and hope to keep as friends such as Nicholas Connop (NEW OKARA WARD COUNCILLOR WITH MOST VOTES! YAY!) and Fiona Green.
3) Growth - This campaign has provided me with a lot of new experiences of which I can feel a great sense of growth from doing more public speaking. I am used to speaking to big crowds of 1000+ from all over NZ and the world, however, this campaign has taken me down a few pegs to initimate meetings of 50, 20 and in one instance 5, which has been a different experience for me of which I am extremely grateful for!
I walk away with great confidence in knowing the way I speak, conduct myself and the mahi I do has grown through this experience.
4) A platform for discussion, a chance to inspire - When standing for council you are given a platform to start discussions about things that are close to your heart, share knowledge and educate and given many chances to inspire. I was able to share my views and Te Māori solutions surrounding mental health and climate change, Share the history of Whangarei and the meanings of the Whangarei Coat of Arms and saying "Non Nobis Solum" and you get to be the reason people decide to take part in democracy by placing their vote.
"To hear people tell you that you are the reason they are voting for the first time ever helps you know you are doing something right"
5) You get to feel the love - To know that 1391 votes translates to 1391 people who believe in you within your ward is a humbling feeling.
I went away for two kaupapa that I had committed to far before I decided to run for council, they kept me away from Whangarei for 10 days leading up to the opening of voting and beyond. These two kaupapa were Future Leaders NZ trip to Parliament for a weekend (seeing my daughter was the highlight though) and then to Whakatāne all the way down the coast on a cultural trip with Whangarei Girls High kapa haka group Te Kapa Rauaroha. While I was away my friends, family, colleagues and even people I had just met during the campaign rallied together and put up my billboards (Sponsored by Innonative 🧡), printed out my flyers and hand delivered them to as many people as they could NOT mailboxes, created and designed THIS website and social media ads for me (Sponsored by NY Labs 💜) and showered me in lots of absolute love and tautoko!
You cannot beat that feeling!
Rangatahi mā, Māori mā, E te hunga mātaawaka. There are absolutely no cons in running for council. It gives your community the chance to cast a vote for someone who they feel represents them well.
However, there are some things I could have done better or would do differently if I was to stand for a second time and I'll share some of these instead.
1) Plan a campaign beforehand - my stand for council was a sudden spur of the moment decision. I did not plan a campaign, organize a team / manager or start campaigning as early as I could have.
Next time I would definitely form a strong team and do it far before it is the election period. I also would not manage my own campaign as two heads are always better than one.
2) Accept help earlier - Next time, I will graciously accept any and all forms of support. I was very stubborn in my stance of wanting to run as a youth friendly example that I turned down a $2000 donation towards my campaign, I did not see the hidden value in billboards and flyers until Innonative and longtime friend, Brother Leonard McDougall (Designer of my billboards and flyers) gave me a new perspective, in that it was a chance for me to showcase our communities and their people as well as letting others know there are places and organizations out there ready to back you! I even turned down a small $50 fundraised for young candidates accross NZ by ActionStation when it could have done a last minute advert or something...
Our campaign billboards all consist of different community leaders who I work with from all ages, ethnicities, social status and genders. Even the one of what appears as "just myself" is actually with Papatūānuku (The Earth Mother) not one billboard was like the other. Thank you to everyone in them for showing your support on a VERY visible manner 😁
I'm used to doing things on my own regardless of if it is for the many or not. I have learnt that It is OK to accept help. 🙏❤️
Accept the resources available to you!
3) Dedicate actual time and resources to the campaign - So, to be very honest. I did not "campaign" as such. I continued doing the myriad of things I already do in my communities.
I let the fact that I am well-known accross Te Ao Māori, Education & Youth Development as well as the country, hinder me from going out becoming known even further. In reflection, I already had their vote, I SHOULD have found new commumities (or more than the 5 or 6 new ones I found) to connect and work with and will definitely be doing MORE of that going forward, council or not.
I didn't door knock myself, lots of others did it for me while I was out of town on other kaupapa (thank you again) ❤️. I didn't have the time between the 1000 other things on my plate and next time if I was to stand, I would put everything on hold to spend more time meeting the people.
I could only attend two Meet the candidate events, one in Denby and one at Whangarei Youth Space of which were awesome. The others, I was out of town mentoring and hosting workshops.
Do something everyday out in the community and maintain consistent contact and interactions on social media.
4) Check the rules vigorously - I had some really GREAT ideas for encouraging people to vote. I was going to host days of music, shared food, massages and discussion at local Marae in Denby during the voting period, the cost? Jump on a van provided and go place a special vote... not for me alone, anyone, just as long as you vote. BUT the rules prevented me doing things like that or atleast hosting them as it could be seen as bribery. Along with a few other things, such as naming who I'd vote for in other wards based on their interactions with me over the election period.
Sit down and get creative, but WITHIN the rules and guidelines 😅
5) Don't give up! - Regardless of the results do not give up, you're first time running will prepare you just as it has for me. The second time you will have a vision of exactly what you want to do and how.
Mihi aroha ❤️
Lastly I would like to acknowledge EVERYONE for the support during this campaign. Special mentions; To my Nan Waana Reihana for supporting me on the homefront, I am in and out like a tornado dropping one suitcase off and packing another always making sure I have a fresh set of clothes ready to go, To the many who drive me around! Nanny Lynn, Timena, Heemi to name a few 😅 Thank you!
To Raewyn Tipene & Leonard McDougall and Innonative for sponsoring and helping design my beautiful billboards and flyers.
To my beautiful friend Shiana and NewYork Labs for sponsoring and designing this website, it's domain and an email suite for 1 year as well a few facebook ads.
To Trish & Ken Love for buying the timber and along with Matua Whero Mack and my family for putting up our billboards! To those teams who helped door knock and hand out flyers Elly, Maudeena, Te Anae, Timena, Alison, Makoare, Toko, Betty-Jo to name a few. THANK YOU SO MUCH 🙏❤️
To everyone in our billboard photos! Multicultural Whangarei with Sandeep, Leah, Suzzette, Marion as well as all the Whangarei Future Leaders as well as my students and their tamariki with a special mention to these two great young leaders, Hana Meri and Aidan Scrooby.
Thank you to those who voted for me, as well as those who couldn't but wanted to.
To Ryan Donaldson for giving me the final push to stand and paying my nomination fee as a sign of tautoko!
"Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini" "My strength and success is not mine alone, but that of the many" - Wi te tau Huata
I have decided that I will not be standing for Whangarei District Council again as I have served my purpose! (To find the pros and cons of running for other youth in Whangarei) I will instead be mentoring and supporting the next wave of Whangareis' next young politicians and their campaigns.
Acknowledgements to everyone who made it in to council, I look forward to supporting you whichever way I can.
Ngā mihi mai oha ki a koutou katoa,