Local councils should reflect the community that elected them. Councils have not always been diverse, but the recent election has seen a shift towards a greater variety of ethnic backgrounds. Zizi Sparks looks at what
could be New Zealand's most diverse council.
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Rotorua's newly-elected council could be the country's most diverse.
Among the 10 councillors and mayor is a mix of ages, genders and ethnicities.
There are five women and six men, two councillors under 30 and four Māori, two Asian, one Indian and four European people.
Dr Bryce Edwards, a senior associate in the Victoria University Institute for Governance and Policy Studies, said there had been a "huge shift" towards greater diversity on councils this election but it would not surprise him if Rotorua was ahead of other councils.
"To me, the overwhelming theme of the campaign was under-representation of certain groups. There was a huge consciousness about that problem and there were more candidates from under-represented groups everywhere."
Edwards said the traditional trend of lack of diversity on councils was not because people did not vote for women, young people or a variety of ethnicities, it was more those candidates had not existed.
"There are signs of the public wanting to fix that balance."
Edwards said other councils nationwide had similar gender and age balances to Rotorua Lakes Council but combining all of the age, gender and ethnic diversities on to one council like in Rotorua was unique.
He said the Single Transferable Vote system generally produced a more diverse council so it was impressive Rotorua had achieved such diversity using First Past the Post.
He said democracy was healthier if all groups felt represented.
"Politics is about being able to see things from others' perspectives but some will feel much better represented if they share characteristics."
Edwards believed age, gender and ethnicity were most commonly used to measure diversity because they were visible but the more important focus was socioeconomic diversity.
"There is an issue with councils having over-representation of people from business, farming and professional backgrounds and having fewer poor people," he said.
"That's the area we don't pay enough attention to in terms of representation and it does have an impact."
According to Census 2018 data, of Rotorua's current population of 71,877, 63 per cent are European, 40 per cent are Māori or Pacific and almost 1 per cent are Asian. Some may identify with more than one ethnicity.
This compares with a ratio of 36 per cent European, 36 per cent Māori and 27 per cent Asian or Indian on the council.
The split of male to female on council and society is almost 50-50.
In the district, there are 30,261 in the under 30s age group, 31,248 between 30 and 64, and 10,365 aged 65 and over. The younger faces are represented by 19-year-old Fisher Wang and Tania Tapsell, 27.
The older generation is still over-represented with more than half of the elected members over 65.
Wang said he was looking forward to bringing a youth voice to the council table.
"Diversity brings more voices on to council previously not represented.
"It definitely benefits decision-making as we have a different point of view."
Tapsell, 27, had been the only councillor under 30 for the past two terms and said she was looking forward to being joined by Wang.
"Diversity is something the community has been asking for and I believe our council now represents our community and it's something we should be quite proud of."
Tapsell believed the council was outperforming others when it came to diversity.
Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said the diversity represented Rotorua.
"The community has spoken and I see the make-up of the new council as an endorsement of the strategic direction that has been set.
"I am meeting all the councillors-elect to hear about their aspirations and I think we have a great mix around the table, with both experience and people new to council and/or governance."
Final council results
Steve Chadwick (mayor) - 9221
Tania Tapsell - 10,213
Raj Kumar - 9962
Sandra Kai Fong - 8950
Mercia Yates - 8262
Merepeka Raukawa-Tait - 7493
Peter Bentley - 7414
Fisher Wang - 7238
Reynold Macpherson - 6620
Dave Donaldson - 6317
Trevor Maxwell - 6230