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Migrants and former refugees need a voice in local government


Migrants and former refugees need a voice in local government.  

5 August 2019

Multicultural NZ is encouraging migrants and former refugees to sign up now for the October 2019 local government elections, take action and have a voice. 

“This is a one in three-year opportunity to have your say and be counted,” says Multicultural New Zealand President, Pancha Narayanan. “Let’s strengthen local government with diversity. It’s really important for migrants and former refugees to have a voice and a place at the table. We encourage you to enrol to vote, and to put your name forward to stand for your local council, community board or health board.” Mr. Narayanan wants local NGOs, Regional Multicultural Councils and other Community Organisations to encourage their members to participate and work with the regional agencies to organise election forums to educate and create awareness. Multicultural NZ promotes Treaty based multicultural communities and this in itself can only be achieved through diversity in the local government and we encourage LGNZ and Local Government to ensure that all public communications and consultations are inclusive.

Local government New Zealand (LGNZ) wants to increase voter turnout this year. All eligible people are encouraged to enrol online: Information on the site is available in a number of different languages. You can also visit a PostShop or call 0800 36 76 56   

“Local councils and health boards make decisions that affect our communities, towns, cities and our daily lives,” says Mr Narayanan. “For example, our roads, pavements, water, libraries, pools, parks, arts and culture and our hospitals and health services.”

“The global perception that New Zealand is inclusive, diverse and multicultural should be reflected locally. Local government should represent a diversity of backgrounds, ideas and beliefs. This is the New Zealand we live in.” 

Newly appointed Race Relations Conciliator, Meng Foon, is a great example of the influence of local representation. Meng successfully stood for the Gisborne Council in 1994 and remained on the Council for 24 years, as Mayor for 18 years.

Mr Foon says the doubt he once had about whether the community would vote for a Chinese New Zealander has gone out the door. “The majority of people do not judge by colour, religion, age, sex, disability,” he says. “They judge you by what you believe in, what you hope to do, what do you bring to the table, do your ideas make sense and will you work hard for them and represent their voices.”

The Kāpiti Coast District Council is headed by His Worship the Mayor, K (Guru) Gurunathan, of Malaysian-Indian heritage and born in Kuala Lumpur. He supports Mayor Meng Foon’s observations. "For first timers stepping into the political arena of local elections it also helps if you have a public profile though your work in the community" he says. "People who know your community contributions judge you by your works,  even if you don’t succeed the first time don’t be discouraged because public service is a journey.“

Key dates for the 2019 local elections

29 June: Enrolment update packs sent to all enrolled voters from this date

16 August: Enrolment closes for the printed electoral roll — enroll by this date to get your voting papers in the mail. If you enrol after this day, you’ll have to request special voting papers

20–25 September: Voting documents sent to all enrolled voters

11 October: Last day to enrol to vote in the local elections


To enrol to vote, and for more information on the process, visit: or visit

Migrants and former refugees need a voice in local government

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