Voice of ethnic communities gets stronger and louder

Which is why you must vote in the Local Government Elections

Dr Ashraf Choudhary

Have you ever wondered who makes decisions about such things as local parks for sports, reserves, free events for young and old, libraries, swimming pools, arts and culture, transport, water supply and sewerage, local roads maintenance, refuse collection, maintaining museums, mowing berms and so on?

It is your Local Councils or Local Boards.

Every three years, we elect a City Mayor, Councillors and Local Board Members to make and prioritise these decisions.

That is why your vote is important and you elect candidates who make these decisions.

Prevailing despondency

Many ethnic people speak privately and say their vote changes nothing.

They are often despondent, and complain that their efforts to be counted have dissipated.

I say to them, of course, those in power will not relinquish that hegemony in a hurry.

Then, I say, ‘Yes, it is possible and we can do it. I did it when I became the first South Asian MP to enter New Zealand Parliament. And now there are half a dozen Asian MPs.

Three years ago, I stood as Labour Candidate for Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board and the Counties Manukau District Health Board and got elected to both positions for a three-year term. I thank all our people for this opportunity.

I hope that I have not disappointed my people during these years of my public service, both in Parliament (nine years) and at local Board level in Manukau.

Increasing ethnic power

The voting power of ethnic minority groups has increased significantly in New Zealand particularly in Auckland.

I believe that the Census results (when they come out and if one can believe them!) will show that a quarter of Auckland’s population is of Asian origin.

This massive change in the electoral demographic could tip the future elections in many ways. This is great news for ethnic communities and democracy.

Many individuals feel powerless, particularly in the apparent inability by politicians to acknowledge persistent lack of representation of ethnic people under our local government electoral system.

It could have serious ramifications particularly for young and restless ethnic youth.

Diverse team, ideas

Our diverse team has some great ideas and we are focused on working together for the benefit of all in the Otara Papatoetoe community.

The Papatoetoe community is extremely multicultural, and our team reflects that, with each of us bringing different abilities and perspectives.

Working towards control of liquor outlets, better services for families, the elderly, disabled, and young people, strengthening community safety, and the retention and sound financial management of our community assets, are just a few of the policies we are promoting.

Ethnic minority voters have either been ignored in New Zealand or taken for granted to a certain extent. Ethnic minority voters should decide for themselves.

Many youth are moving away from the voting patterns of their parents and that vote is important to our communities and in our decision-making process.

I believe that the ethnic minority vote is as important as the ‘grey’ vote and that our local government in Auckland ignores it at its peril.

The voting patterns of ethnic minorities are changing dramatically and that decision-makers need to take this on board.

What we now need is putting policies in place that appeal to ethnic minority communities.

We need to be inclusive, eliminate discrimination, advance equality of opportunity, and foster good relations.

Our Future Leaders

Young people are our future. Everyone 18 years of age or over is entitled to vote in our elections including for local bodies such as Auckland Council.

You have many years of life ahead of you, so by voting you can play your part in brightening the future of our community. One day some of you may even decide to put your names forward to stand for a council position. So take part now by voting.

If you have been a Permanent Resident for one year or a Citizen of New Zealand, you have the democratic right to say who will represent you.

Just as you can vote for Members of Parliament in Wellington, you can also choose who represents you on Auckland Council, Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board, and Counties Manukau District Health Board.

No matter what your ethnicity, religion, gender, or political views, you have the right to vote for any candidates of your choice.

Please make the right choice and vote for our Labour candidates.

The Voting Process

If you do not vote, you give up a precious right that many elsewhere in the world do not have. So find out as much as you can about those offering themselves for election to Auckland Council, Local Boards and also the District Health Boards, then complete the postal ballot you would be receiving from September 20 to 24, 2019 in the mail addressed to you, and post it back immediately in the self-stamped envelope provided by no later than October 8, 2019, as the Poll closes on Saturday, October 12, 2019.

If you believe that you are qualified to vote but have not received a ballot paper by now, please contact the Returning Officer at the New Zealand Election Commission on 0800-367656.

Email: enquiries@elections.govt.nz.

Dr Ashraf Choudhary is Member, Counties Manukau District Health Board, Member, Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board and Former Member of Parliament (from 2002 to 2011) on Labour List. He is credited with a number of initiatives including ‘Diwali in Parliament’ and ‘Eid in Parliament,’ which are now popular events attracting people from all over New Zealand.

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