I'm a great believer in succession planning.
Planning for the replacement or passing on of leadership roles. I suspect I bore the pants off many of our younger community members. I am always encouraging those, who I can see have the interests of their community at heart, to think about a career in politics, both local and central.
We need their input and the earlier the better.
I find their youthful enthusiasm infectious. This became even more apparent earlier this month when I had the opportunity to speak to a gathering of mainly younger women, many of whom are just starting out in their careers.
It surprised me to hear them talking about careers not jobs. They were taking a deliberate planned approach to their future. They were well informed and aware of the dangers of Covid, and that we are a long way from being out of woods on that score.
Nevertheless, they were positively positive. They talked about creating their own desirable future. It was a pleasure to be in their company, even if a little heady.
I have always believed there is no substitute for experience. Life experience, work experience and today diverse cultural experience is an asset too. Especially for those who seek leadership positions. But I am beginning to question my thinking on this viewpoint.
To some extent at least. I now think experience may only get you so far. In fact, I am starting to believe it may even hinder progress. That's why I would now suggest all leaders in whatever areas, be it health, education, law and order, business, science, sports, arts, medicine, the list goes on, should start to encourage and listen to younger voices.
In the recent past, these voices are being raised. They have become noticeable and are being heard. Think Pania Newton at Ihumatao. In my opinion, they are leaders in waiting.
I now question why wait? They are the ones groomed to craft new futures for themselves, their families and the communities in which they live. They already have many of the characteristics I admire and are refreshingly honest. They do not profess to know all the answers so they are open to listening, and with a willingness to understand.
The ones who impress me the most are bi-cultural with a multi-cultural world view.
Talk about aiming high. Their vision and dreams are not exclusive, for their communities only, but for New Zealand and the world. Not for them the blah, blah, blah of finger-pointing Miss Greta Thunberg of Sweden.
These young New Zealanders have been brought up to respect mother nature and to understand that the environment matters, and must be kept in harmony and balance. The environment is intrinsically woven into their DNA. They know they will have the responsibility of making far-reaching decisions one day and they are currently on a steep learning curve.
Young New Zealanders don't have to focus on looking in the rear vision mirror to remind themselves of the good old days. Days that I would dispute were ever that terrific anyway.
They have nowhere to look but forward, straight ahead. Trying to anticipate what might be coming over the horizon. They know that's where the future lies and they want to be a part of charting and mapping that future.
I couldn't resist concluding my time with the group by asking them to consider a career in local body politics. Later I was amused by their questions, I could tell they had never entertained the idea.
"Don't you have to be retired? Don't you have to own your own house first? Don't you need a university qualification"?
No, no and no. I made sure to tell them never to confuse a person's age and perceived wealth with common sense and empathy. Two of the characteristics I value most in politicians but are getting harder to find.
I wanted them to think of the added value they could bring to the job now. What they do in the community, who they talk to, their networks. They easily think "outside the box". They are not pretentious, self-serving or with ideas of grandeur. I encouraged "start early" and to make politics a career choice.
If young people believe politics is the sole domain of the older generation then I think we will never get the best people for the job. Of course, a mix of ages and experience is important but times are changing and it is younger voices that I want to hear contributing to decision making.
I believe they are what is required now. Voices that put forward new ideas and do not feel threatened when it's time for divergent views to be expressed. Who don't kowtow to interest groups and view all people as deserving of being heard.
They have that fearlessness that comes with youth, not to be confused with reckless disregard. They are what this country needs in local body politicians.
I hear many politicians talking about fearing for the future.
Fearing the notion of having people from more diverse backgrounds and their diverse opinions being expressed at the decision-making table. Fear in politicians has the potential to halt progress, stop new ideas and hinder creativity. It inhibits seeing potential. That potential lies with the younger generation.
They deserve a bright future full of hope. Fearful politicians are a big let-down.
- Merepeka Raukawa-Tait is chairwoman of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency, a Lakes District Health Board member and Rotorua District councillor.