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As a public and community leader take the opportunity to be an upstander. Inclusive campaigning and respectful debate supports diversity and inclusion in our communities.
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July 21st, 2022

Message from Meng Foon, Race Relations Commissioner

As Race Relations Commissioner I encourage every candidate to run a campaign that supports building harmonious communities and gives nothing to racism. Serving in local government is an important leadership role and campaigns are an opportunity to demonstrate leadership values of inclusivity, non-discrimination and belonging.

Everyone has the right to live a life that is free from discrimination. This is enshrined in the Human Rights Act 1993, that no one should be discriminated against on the grounds of colour, race, religion, ethnic or national origins, gender, marital status, disability, age, political opinion or employment status. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, and I have in the past seen public discussions and political campaigning that have lost focus on the issues and instead become racist.

Our community and country is ethnically diverse, in Aotearoa New Zealand there are 214 ethnic groups and over 300 dialects spoken. Our diverse communities bring richness to all aspects of Aotearoa New Zealand. We celebrate our diversity. Inclusive campaigns support diversity and inclusion in our community, facilitate the participation of everyone and demonstrates inclusive leadership.

Political campaigning and rhetoric can be a tool for change, but if used in a way that discriminates against people, it can be a tool for harm. Racist conversations often negatively impact members of ethnic, religious and diverse communities, which can do real harm to people and in turn the social cohesion of our communities and country. It is important to debate issues in a way that doesn’t discriminate but instead upholds the dignity of everyone. As a public and community leader take the opportunity to be an upstander – someone who stands up against racism in the community. Give nothing to racism.

Message from Susan Freeman-Greene, Chief Executive, Local Government New Zealand

We need everyone across Aotearoa New Zealand to see local government as a powerful platform for positive change for the benefit of current and future generations. A wide diversity of candidates must stand in our local elections to represent their communities when decisions are being made.

Ultimately it’s about making sure that all voters can see themselves in their elected representatives.

We know that a lack of inclusion is one of the barriers to getting diversity into local councils and is an issue that has built up over time. For candidates from diverse and under-represented backgrounds and communities, this barrier can start even before they have even been elected through harmful campaigning rhetoric aimed at them and the communities they represent. Unsafe and harmful rhetoric can be a major deterrent for candidates looking to stand as well as residents who are wanting to engage with local issues.

All communities in Aotearoa are affected by the changes occurring across our nation, including the significant programme of reform underway in the local government sector that will change the forms and functions of local government.

Candidates can debate these important issues robustly yet respectfully to uphold the dignity of their fellow candidates. This means focusing on the issues – not the person.

Differences in opinion are an important part of our democratic process. However, racist and discriminatory rhetoric is unacceptable - it damages our democracy. Inclusive campaigning and respectful debate supports diversity and inclusion in our communities by ensuring that everyone feels safe to participate in these important conversations.

This election, let’s have respectful and constructive debate and let’s campaign about the important issues and opportunities facing local government and communities – there are plenty of them. We know that this sometimes toxic and challenging environment has built up over a long time, so we acknowledge that shifting what’s acceptable – and what is not – will take more than one election cycle.

We need to start somewhere though. We want these guidelines to be enduring. We hope they will form the basis for all future local body campaigns.

This document was originally published on the LGNZ website and has been reposted to The Platform.