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I Don’t Believe Local Politicians Are In it For the Money

From Hayley Robinson

I Don’t Believe Local Politicians Are In it For the Money.

The Dominion Post recently reported that our city councillors are to receive a nearly 9 percent pay-rise. As someone who has recently announced they will be standing for said council, I read this with interest and some bemusement.

I thought the arguments put forward sounded very logical and fair (wait for the ‘but’) with the paper stating that “Local Government New Zealand chairman Lawrence Yule welcomed the new pay system, as elected officials were finding it increasingly difficult to hold down other employment…” Mr Yule went on to point out that current and potential councillors may have to “give up other career options, or significant family life, or significant other things they're doing…..We're struggling to attract quality candidates ... it gives potential candidates certainty ..."

The problem is, all those things apply equally to any employment situations that have a social giving aspect. A good comparison is teaching. Some teachers work fifty hours a week: I’m sure they want more time with their families; and I can tell you as someone who has taught, that the current level of councillor remuneration did not deter me in the slightest. Candidates are not going to try for this job on the basis of dollars. This is something people do out of a sense of duty and care.

In an ideal world, local government would ‘attract’ candidates from a wide variety of backgrounds in order that Wellingtonians be well represented. I think it is (I’m sure unintentionally) a little insulting to infer that ‘quality’ candidates would come from employment fields where they earn more than a councillor currently does. A small business owner, a nurse or an economics professor could all bring valuable contributions. Its diversity that matters.

Personally, I’d like it if the pay of all elected government officials were simply linked to the nation average when it comes to rises. My personal convictions mean that, if I were elected, I would not feel comfortable with this increase, and would be looking to gift the after-tax difference to organisations that work to help with affordable or emergency housing in our city. This is a personal (and family) decision and should not be inflicted on any other person.

I’d also like to point out that many councillors do spend time now on non-paid work (including parenting) and on volunteering for their communities. I hope that we will see fair and accurate media coverage for both incumbent councillors, and new candidates in the lead up to this year’s Wellington City Council election. May the best women and men win. I would like to encourage all Wellingtonians to vote, not necessarily for me, but for anyone whose ideas and methods they believe in.

Let’s work together for Wellington.

Hayley Robinson.

ENDS

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