Is it a democracy if the people representing us do not represent all of us? Three young councillors from around the Bay of Plenty weigh in on juggling council responsibilities with their careers for the
benefit of diversity, while a stalwart admits it is not as easy as it used to be. Leah Tebbutt reports.
Juggling a job and an elected position is already proving a hurdle for some new councillors who are yet to attend their first meetings.
Newly elected Tauranga City councillor Jako Abrie, 30, is hoping to hold on to his job at Trustpower for the purpose of job security.
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He has been working fulltime but would like to cut back to at least 10 hours a week to manage the 30 to 50 hours he expects to spend on council duties.
He believes this kind of flexibility is essential for a person in an elected role, as in three years' time he could be voted out and effectively be unemployed.
"I think we need people who care, who aren't treating this as a retirement gig or putting their career in front of giving time to the community.
"The worst that can happen is you may get voted out, but hopefully you can find a job afterwards."
Being a councillor is a job that has become harder to juggle, recently retired Bay of Plenty Regional councillor John Cronin believes.
"Meetings would start around 3pm in the afternoon then [in the 1980s] so you would work half the day," Cronin told the Bay of Plenty Times last week.
"But you cannot do that these days because council is so irregular. So you either get people going in too young or too old."
Rotorua Lakes District councillor Fisher Wang has been working in the McDonald's Fenton St cafe for more than a year.
He is heavily reducing his hours to be 100 per cent committed to and focused on his council obligations.
"I want to keep working at least half a day because it also enables me to talk to the public in a relaxed setting."
Wang hopes his political career will be a long one, but is not "too stressed" if he is voted out either.
"We'll see what happens when we get there. Life is full of surprises - like being elected as councillor - so I'm sure it will be okay."
At 20, Stacey Rose is the youngest Bay of Plenty Regional councillor and joins Wang and Abrie in the juggling act.
He is saying goodbye to his passion, barbering, to commit to his new role.
"I made that decision because from what I have heard, there is a reputation of councillors being lazy and not wanting to communicate with their community."
Rose will receive a base salary of $54,525 for the part-time position - potentially more if he takes on additional responsibilities - but it will be hard to put down his tools for the last time at the end of this week.
"I know I have three years 'til I need to think about re-election, but I have. I could walk back into the barber industry, thankfully, but it's not always that simple."
Dr Bryce Edwards, a senior associate in the Victoria University Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, said traditionally, the pay rate meant retired or business people were able to work on councils.
"To have a full democracy you need all types of people in society included in society.
"There is a benefit of different people's lived experiences when making decisions. If you only have people from one demographic and they don't have an idea of how people live, it can be hard to make policy for their areas."
He said having diversity on a council, whether it be age, race, gender or socio-economic background, was a good way to invoke the importance of politics to all people.
"It means young people growing up will see people with the same character traits as them in power and understand that politics is not for one type of person. It is for everyone."