Females missing from the mix

By Amy McGillivray

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Council candidate Gail McIntosh (left) and Zonta member Frances Wilcockson at the female election candidates meeting held by Zonta last night. Photo / Andrew Warner
Council candidate Gail McIntosh (left) and Zonta member Frances Wilcockson at the female election candidates meeting held by Zonta last night. Photo / Andrew Warner

A lack of female representation in Tauranga is causing the city to suffer according to past and present councillors and candidates.

One woman has been elected as a Tauranga City councillor in each of the past two terms.

Currently only three of the 13 Bay of Plenty Regional councillors, four of 11 Bay of Plenty District Health Board members and five of 12 Western Bay of Plenty District councillors are women.

Former Tauranga City councillor Mary Dillon told the Bay of Plenty Times there was "absolutely no doubt" the city was suffering because of the lack of female representation among its elected members.

"It's entirely unfortunate. A mix of males and females make a big difference to the debate. When you get a group of blokes, they start behaving as a group of blokes," she said.

Recent, male-dominated, councils had become too focused on infrastructure and had forgotten about the people, Mrs Dillon said.

She said it may be the cost of running, the prospect of having to give up a high-paying professional job and a lack of confidence that put women off.

"I think it's better if there's a mix and I think the best way to get that mixture is building capacity and capability and that might require a small amount of funding."

Ideally, half of all elected members would be women and half men but a quota introduced for a few years to set a culture, may be needed, she said.

Another former Tauranga City councillor, Anne Pankhurst, agreed more even representation would help.

"I think it's a real shame there's not more diversity on the council, and that includes different ethnic origins and women. I think it's something women do exceptionally well. They give a different view and they are 50 per cent of the community," she said. "It's interesting that there aren't more women voted on. It's not that they are not standing.

"I think the city is suffering for not having strong, progressive, female leadership."

Even so, Ms Pankhurst was adamant people should be elected on their merits rather than because of legislation which aimed to get a better mix.

Zonta International's Tauranga Club last night held a meet the candidates evening for all women running for elected positions in the Tauranga area.

Organiser and Tauranga City Council candidate Gail McIntosh said it was a way for Zonta, a group dedicated to advancing the status of women worldwide, to promote the woman's voice.

"There's been lots of academic studies showing that boards work better if there is some kinds of diversity on it," she said.

"We bring a whole different skill-set and a whole different perspective. If you all think the same you're not going to get the best decisions."

Tauranga City councillor Catherine Stewart, the only woman currently on the council, agreed there needed to be a bigger female presence.

"For better representation it would be good to have some more female voices at the table but at the end of the day it's up to the community to decide."

Current Bay of Plenty Regional councillor Paula Thompson agreed there needed to be more women in elected positions if they were to correctly represent half of the population.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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