Log In

Reset Password

Diversity best achieved naturally

Opinion Piece

Our departing Mayor has earned the respect of every member of this community, not just for what he has achieved during his long meritorious tenure as our leader but also for the considered bits of advice he is giving on the way out.

Of particular interest to me in Monday’s Herald article was his summary of the criteria he reckons is used by most of us when we make our selections from the list of candidates on the ballot paper.

He is quoted as saying:

“The majority of people do not judge by colour, religion, age, sex or disability. They judge you by what you believe in, what you hope to do, what you bring to the table, whether you will work hard for them and represent their voices at the council or health board table.”

I believe that remarkable assessment should be adopted and used by all of us, if it hasn’t been already, as a blueprint for electing future councils and health boards. It is as complete a list as needed to ensure we end up with a group of people able to work as a team in the best interests of the whole community.

However, what makes it all the more interesting was when the Herald article referred to his comments about “a need for more ethnic diversity”.

Some would say those references are really an attempt to encourage more people of ethnic origin to get involved by “having a go”, and should be seen in the context of the Mayor’s new appointment as Race Relations Commissioner.

Perhaps they are. However, once the suggestion is made, the end result may not be exactly what he had in mind, and the genie is out of the bottle.

My fear is that many readers will misread those comments and see them as an encouragement to place greater emphasis on race-based selections.

If so, this unnecessary focus on one particular aspect of a candidate’s background is problematic in that it may dilute or even negate the attention that should be given to the multitude of qualifications on the A list referred to earlier.

A successful candidate elected in this manner may feel obliged to make decisions at the council or health board table that are overtly partisan, simply as the result of a perceived obligation to be seen serving his or her race-based constituency.

Ideally, ethnic diversity around the council or health board table is a result that should be achieved as a consequence of a natural process, rather than one arrived at almost in a similar way that preferences are given using a system that allows for affirmative action.

Fortunately, in spite of a fractious history in race relations, the ethnic groups that make up this community have been able to grow in an environment that allows for individuals with different racial backgrounds to achieve at the highest level, and to be chosen for leadership roles on merit. Meng himself is the best example of that being true.

The ethnic background of the next council should have had no bearing on how the final number are chosen. Personally, I would hope they are all selected solely for their individual abilities to do the job. Nothing else should matter.

TWO SHOTS: Clive Bibby is trying for a seat on Gisborne District Council, and Hauora Tairawhiti.