Minister for Women says gender imbalance at Nelson, Tasman councils a concern

A gender imbalance on Nelson and Tasman's councils "isn't good enough" according to the Minister for Women.

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Local body elections are only a few months away. Source: 1 NEWS

Women make up just 20 per cent of local representatives in the region, prompting a call to action ahead of this year's local body elections.

Former Tasman District Councillor Elaine Henry experienced her share of highs and lows in more than 20 years of service, but one thing hasn't changed - she's still in the minority.

“In the Nelson City Council we have about 23 per cent of the councillors that are women, but in Tasman it is as low as 21 per cent, which is a real cause of concern in our community,” she says.

Henry, alongwith former local leaders Hilary Mitchell and Gail Collingwood, want to improve the region’s gender representation in the coming elections.

“We're not advocating that you vote for women because it's a woman, we're advocating that you vote for a woman because you can see that she will make a difference in the council,” explains Henry.

Minister for Women Julie Ann Genter doesn’t think the current rates are good enough.

“Women are half the population, there's no reason why they shouldn't be half our representatives," she says. 

Nelson Tasman falls below the national average, but it's a low bar.

Department of Internal Affairs figures show women make up less than a third of mayors and councillors across the country.

Ms Genter believes there have been some barriers for women standing for local government, which include “the times of the meetings, the amount of the pay”.

“Until recently, there hasn't been an allowance for childcare which is probably been more difficult for young parents to stand whether they're young men or women.”

The Remuneration Authority's now made that possible, but councils will need to adopt it.

Nelson City Council Mayor and Local Government New Zealand’s Regional Sector spokesperson Rachel Reese says overall gender balance is improving but wants encourage more young women to the table.

“About 10 per cent of our elected members at the moment are under forty and I'd really like to see that grow,” she says.

“I’ve been spending the last 12 months speaking with women about standing and so far I can see several names coming forward and I hope to see a ballot paper that greater reflects our community.”

The Women’s Minister will speak in Nelson on July 2 at the Greenmeadows Centre in Stoke.