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Lack of diversity in local government a concern

Human Rights Commission
Media Release
Tuesday, 4 March 2008

EMBARGO: 6am, Tuesday 4 March

Lack of diversity in local government a concern

The ethnic representation of our local government bodies is still a far cry from the diverse communities they serve.

This is just one of the key messages of the 2007 Race Relations report launched by the Human Rights Commission at a Mayoral breakfast function in Manukau City on 4 March.

Elections were held in 2007 for school boards of trustees, local government and district health boards. In total, successful candidates from these elections were overwhelmingly European at 87.3% for local government, 77.7% for school boards and 76.9% for district health boards. Maori representation in local government councils rose from 4.3% in 2004 to 4.8% in 2007, while the figure for school boards dropped from 16% to 15.4% in 2007.¹

The only diversity improvement was reflected in the district health board results, which showed a 10% increase in Maori representation since 2004; however this was due to ministerial appointments rather than elections.

Speaking at the launch, Race Relations Commissioner Joris de Bres said that, while the public mood on race relations was more positive than in previous years, there were many areas where improvements were needed to meet the challenges of our current demographics.

“We need to see an increase in Māori, Pacific and other ethnic participation in governance,” he said. “While parliament has become more representative of the community, it would be good to see more Pacific and Asian people on the party lists and contesting seats this year.”

Mr de Bres said local bodies should encourage a broader range of candidates so that councils have a better chance of representing all people in towns and cities. He cited the Auckland situation as “particularly out of synch” with the regional population, given the high level of Māori, Pacific and Asian communities; but singled out Manukau City as the exception with a “significantly diverse” representation.

“Local government need to be looking at this issue now rather than waiting until the next election in 2009,” he advised.

Other focus areas identified in the Race Relations report include the need for increased Māori, Pacific and other ethnic participation in the media and reducing Māori imprisonment, which has persisted at around 50% of the total prison population for the past four years². Continuing to reduce racial inequalities and the monitoring of hate crime are also highlighted as key issues.

The annual report aims to provide factual information and context to inform public discussion in the lead up to Race Relation Day, which is observed internationally on 21 March. This year the theme for Race Relations Day is Finding Common Ground.

Background Notes

Tūi Tūi Tuituiā, Race Relations in 2007 is an annual record of race relations developments in the country, incorporating community action on diversity, the Treaty of Waitangi, discrimination, culture and heritage, language, migrants, media, religion and human rights.

Finding Common Ground is the title of the NZ Diversity Action Programme’s draft Statement on Race Relations, which seeks to set out some basic principles that underpin good race relations and will be the focus of workplace and community discussion around Race Relations Day. The Statement on Race Relations can be found on our website at www.hrc.co.nz.

Race Relations Day
Because 21 March falls on Good Friday this year, events will be taking place throughout the month, both before and after Easter. Details can be found on our website at www.hrc.co.nz.

¹Sources: www.educationcounts.govt.nz, www.library.lgnz.co.nz, Ministry of Health
²Source: Department of Corrections


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