Get out and vote, says Ngāi Tahu Kaiwhakahaere Tā Mark Solomon

electionIt’s local government election time. You will have seen the billboards, brochures, posters and appeals on your Facebook page and in local newspapers. Candidates have hit the streets, campaigning for a job as mayor, councilor or district health board representative. We can definitely say we are well informed about candidates and their aspirations although some whānau might say it’s too much information. But that should not be an excuse for not paying attention or for not voting.

“This is an important time for Māori to engage in the political process,” says Tā Mark. “By voting now we can shape what will happen in our towns, cities and regions. It’s too easy just to let the opportunity slide by, but it is vital that Māori vote and play an active part in this process.”

Statistics tell us that there was a very low turn-out of Māori voters at the 2010 election across the country and this may be because we don’t take our local council elections as seriously as we do the government elections.

Perhaps we only think of local councils when we need to pay rates, need our roads attended to or when we are seeking our parks and recreations areas to be made more safe or attractive. However, local councils play an important part in our society and have the power to make decisions on local issues, such as environmental policies, funding community projects, town planning and large scale development and building projects, which requires resource consent.

We know that some of our own whānau have put themselves forward for election and are campaigning for one of the council and district health board positions. We congratulate each and every one of them for putting themselves out there.

Your voting papers and further information about each candidate should have arrived in the mailbox this week. Take some time to read the information about the candidates in your area and have a think about how this person can effectively represent you and your whānau. You can make more of a difference in your local area than you might think – so get enthusiastic and get your vote in.