Wellington Labour Councillor Paul Eagle’s introduction to local government was at an early age – when his father ran for Labour on the Mt Eden Borough Council.
“I was about five,” said Paul, who will be talking about his own campaign experiences in the Rongotai Electorate and Southern Ward campaigns at the New Zealand Labour Local Government Hui in Wellington on Friday 30 January.
The hui is being convened to get Labour members who are involved or interested in local government together and plan how we will turn the country red in 2016 as a building block to taking back the Beehive in 2017.
“What I remember most about my father’s campaign is the leaflet deliveries and posters and lots of people around and media coming to the house to take our pictures,” said Paul. “My father wasn’t elected - I don’t think he expected to be - but it was important to him to stand on the Labour ticket and be part of that Labour team.
“That was my first awareness of local government politics. My father was a Methodist minister so he always worked closely with the community and instilled in me the importance of valuing and serving your community.”
While many local government candidates choose to stand as independents, when Paul decided to run for election for Wellington City Council he was determined that he too would do so proudly on a Labour ticket.
“I had worked in local government in Auckland, Manukau City and Wellington including economic and community roles,” he said. “When Labour lost the 2008 general election I knew in my heart of hearts that there were tough times ahead, as there usually is when you move into opposition after a long period in power.
“I was asked to consider standing and went along to a Labour training session for people who were interested in local government. They talked about how the party needed people with strong Labour values who saw themselves as being part of a future Labour and helping rebuild the party - I was hooked.
“Most people were telling me to stand as an independent. The city has a long history of strong Labour councillors, but, by that time the only one left was the late Leonie Gill. It was important for me, as it had been for my father, to stand for the Labour ticket and represent Labour values.
“Ultimately, the reception to that from voters was really positive. The response on the doorsteps was ‘It’s about time – we’ve been waiting for a Labour candidate’.”
Now in his second term as a Labour councillor, Paul says it has been a hugely positive and life-changing experience.
“I was 35 when I attended that meeting. Someone there said ‘Don’t wait until you retire to stand’, and I’m glad I didn’t.
“You have to learn to self-manage well because you go from a workplace where you have a boss to answering to the people you represent – my community is my boss. You need to do a lot of forward planning and preparation for meetings and public events. You need to communicate well, manage conflict and be a mediator and problem-solver.
“I was fortunate to have a great mentor in Leonie and I would really love more people to come forward to stand on a Labour ticket for a council or community board and share the knowledge I have gained with them.
“Local government is vitally important because we are part of people’s lives every day. The decisions we make affect almost everything they do. The best part of this job for me is being able to make a difference for people.”
Local government is important in maintaining the services that New Zealanders take for granted. Labour has always contested local government elections, in one form or another, and it is a critical testing ground for our ‘Machine’ and for prospective parliamentary candidates.
Please join us at the hui at the Wharewaka on Wellington waterfront from 9:30am-4:30pm Friday 30 January and help build strong Labour local government representation across New Zealand's regions, towns, and cities.
The event will include an opening address by Andrew Little and presentations from experienced local government representatives from across the country.
All members are welcome to attend. Participation is free, BYO lunch. If you would like to attend please RSVP to Paul McMahon, the new Chair of the Labour Local Government Sector Council – email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Paul on 021 184 1072
For the full programme click here