Local government needs the right people in communities

Auckland Mayoral candidate Efeso Collins with Suveen Walgampola and others (Photo Supplied)

Suveen Sanis Walgampola
Auckland, September 14, 2022

Political engagements are spaces where those in positions of power get to hear straight from the community. The setting is not often at spots such as my mother’s house.

Often with political engagements, you would have a designated engagement day and have to go to a community hall at some absurd time when most people with full-time work and families to support would not be able to make it. Discussions are had, and decisions are made on this feedback that affects everyone, especially those unable to join these meetings.

I am standing for election in the Albert-Eden Local Board and have sat in a few of these local political engagement meetings. The one observation is always the lack of diversity within these spaces that wield quite a lot of power.

Refreshing nostalgia

But on a sunny Sunday afternoon, around 50 members of the Sri Lankan community gathered at my mother’s place with fresh Sri Lankan food prepared by close family friends.

It felt different but familiar as I was surrounded by uncles and aunties who have known me since I could barely walk, causing trouble wherever I went. Now they are sitting around a potential Mayor and me, a candidate for the local board providing their thoughts and feedback on what they want to see.

This is a significant shift for a few different reasons. Breaking down the barriers where candidates can engage directly with the community with candidates consulting in their spaces rather than making them come to their own. If you are going to engage in the Sri Lankan community, of course, it should be at someone’s house with food, as that’s pretty much what we do every weekend.

Auckland Mayoral candidate Efeso Collins with the Sri Lankan and other communities (Photo Supplied)

Consultation Tent in the Park

Another example of this was during a consultation at Windmill Park in Epsom.

The Auckland Council set up a consultation tent in the Park, and around 40 Sri Lankans played a Cricket tournament in the oval area. A spectacular site; however, some residents who came to the consultation thought tennis ball Cricket was a safety hazard to their properties, the music was disruptive, and no one else can use the Park. From their point of view, the Cricket ground needed to be scrapped as it is essentially attracting undesirables into their Community who, and I quote, “Do not live in this area anyway” – not like they asked.

In the traditional council consultation, those voices are the loudest and only ones that get heard and actioned through council-funded development. But something different happened this time. Luckily I knew the boys playing Cricket and, in our native tongue, convinced each to line up for a round of facilitated consultation. The Council workers gathering their feedback, our community utilising the Parks services now had their say on its future development. Many of them had families, so wished to have facilities to allow them to bring their children while they play their Cricket tournaments.

Overall, these local elections are not that far away. With a voter turnout usually at 30%, we need to do more within our communities to ensure we are active participants in our democracy. Because as we see in the two examples above, with the right people with connections to the community, you can facilitate engagements that are simply not possible through traditional local council approaches and be able to create better outcomes for all communities that call Aotearoa home.

Suveen Sanis Walgampola is a City Vision Candidate for Maungawhau (Albert-Eden)

Share this story

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement

Previous slide
Next slide

Advertisement