Stacey Rose almost didn't run for the Bay of Plenty Regional Council. The 19-year-old barber cancelled his campaign and was ready to move on to other business ventures. Then a call from an old friend changed his mind and he decided, on the eve of the nomination deadline, to follow his dream and make some noise for youth issues. But he never intended to actually win. Samantha Motion meets Tauranga's newest elected official.
A teenage barber from Tauranga says he is in shock after unintentionally getting elected without a single vote being cast.
Stacey Rose, 19, of South Island iwi Kai (Ngāi) Tahu, is one of five candidates elected unopposed to represent Tauranga, New Zealand's fifth-largest city, on the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.
The other four were incumbents who will be re-elected.
Rose - whose campaign slogan was "Let's BANG This Out" - will replace councillor John Cronin, who is in his late 70s and stepping down after more than three decades as an elected official.
Rose will receive a base salary of $54,525 for the part-time position - potentially more if he takes on additional responsibilities - but planned to keep his $20 an hour job at the Barber Workshop in Tauranga Crossing for 20 to 25 hours a week.
He will join a team of 14 councillors who represent a population estimated at 305,700, spread over seven territorial authorities and including 18 offshore islands.
The council has assets valued at more than $705 million and took in more than $50m in rates last financial year.
Rose said he went into his campaign with no expectation of winning a seat. His goal was to inject a strong youth voice into the debate and draw attention to youth-focused issues.
"I didn't have the intention of being elected."
A week before the nominations were due, he decided to pull out of the race and pursue business ventures instead.
A call from an old friend, however, convinced him to change his mind and on the eve of the Friday's nomination deadline, he decided to follow his political dream.
"The night before I said, 'all right, screw it'."
Days later he got the call that he had won a seat. His first reaction was "shock", he told the Bay of Plenty Times.
"I'm still in a bit of shock at the moment.
"I'm just getting to grips with the fact that I am a regional councillor.
"From what I have heard, I am the youngest regional councillor the Bay of Plenty has had in decades.
"It's going to be an interesting three years."
He said he was not in it for the money, and was ready to get stuck in and make a real difference.
He was most passionate about improving public transport, action on climate change and restoring native bush around the Bay of Plenty.
His motto was: "Do the mahi [work], get the treats" - a slogan coined by Kiwi social media star-turned Dancing with the Stars contestant William Waiirua.
Given his age, he said he was expecting criticism and said he was open to it. He expected to make mistakes and said he would learn from them, and from his council colleagues.
Born in September 1999, Rose will be 20 by the time he takes up the seat in November.
He has been involved in politics since he was 14.
Growing up in Palmerston North, he was on the local youth council. He served as a Youth MP to a New Zealand First MP and has been involved with the Green Party since 2016 as a volunteer and a member of the Young Greens executive.
He spent the past few years moving between Palmerston North, Christchurch and Wellington.
He shifted to Tauranga about four months ago after a month with his mum in Rotorua, and said he had no plans to move again any time soon.
His mum, Michelle Rose, said she was "very, very proud" of her son, who had worked hard to get where he was.
His manager at Barber Workshop, Luke Abbott, joked he was "heartbroken" when he learned Rose would have to wind back his hours due to being elected.
"I'm delighted for him, it's his dream."
Cronin - who declined to give his specific age - said he did not know Rose but it was great to see a young person with an interest in local government put their name forward.
"I am sure he will do well."
Councillor Stuart Crosby, a former Tauranga mayor who has also been re-elected to his regional council seat, said the Tauranga councillors were excited to work with and listen to Rose.
"It's really exciting to have such a young voice on our regional council."
He said the role would be "life-changing". "He just doesn't know it yet."
He was not sure whether the lack of competition for the Tauranga seats reflected apathy towards local government or a community content with their representatives.
The other re-elected Tauranga councillors were David Love, Paula Thompson and Andrew von Dadelszen.
Bill Clark and Doug Leeder will also be automatically re-elected to fill the two Eastern Bay of Plenty seats on the council, while Te Taru White will take the Okurei Māori seat unopposed. All other regional council seats have competition.
Around New Zealand, six mayors have been elected unopposed, the New Zealand Herald reported on Wednesday.
Political expert Dr Bryce Edwards warned the lack of competition may not be a sign of contentment and was more likely a reflection on the public's disinterest in local body politics.
Voting in the 2019 local government elections opens on September 20 and closes on October 12.
Who is Stacey Rose?
Age: 19, turning 20 in September
Ethnicity: New Zealand Māori (whakapapa Kai Tahu, also known as Ngāi Tahu)
Born and raised: Palmerston North
Moved to Tauranga: Four months ago
Lives in: Brookfield
Passions: Public transport, the environment, representing young people.