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September 2, 2019 | by  | in News |
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Progress: Tamatha Paul is Running for Council

Tamatha Paul: Wellington City Council Lambton Ward

Tamatha’s passion for the communities she belongs to is a key part of her campaign for council. Coming up throughout her interview, access to council and community engagement were frequent. Unsurprising, given her work on VUWSA during her time at Vic.


During her time on the VUWSA exec, she worked alongside a number of community organisations on issues like renting, city safety, and mental health. As such, she thinks running for council is a natural fit.


She told Salient that, although she thinks the council has been making progress on student issues, “some of the critical decision-making layers, our voice is missing.”


“My passion really is connecting up different groups and different people; trying to achieve goals together,” she said. 


Council Accessibility

When asked about poor youth engagement with local politics, councillors have laid the blame on young people themselves for a lack of interest. Tamatha sees it differently. To her, it is the responsibility of councillors to engage their wards, rather than just saying, “This is what we’re doing, you come to us.”


Although acknowledging improvements in council social media, which she considers key for youth engagement, she considers having a young councillor is more important than mere “tokenistic, advisory” involvement.


Tam considers herself a good fit for that role, with established relationships with student groups, youth organisations, and other important actors in the city from her time at VUWSA. 


These issues, as well as collaborative decision-making, all came up consistently throughout her interview.


Climate Change

Tamatha wasn’t surprised at the cynicism of Wellingtonians when Salient told her 44% of submitters on the WCC climate change plan doubted the council would take any action on the issue; “It certainly doesn’t look like it’s at the forefront of their minds.”


Two important aspects of Tamatha’s position on climate change action were addressing it in as many capacities as possible, and “finding compelling ways to make [people] care about the environment”.


These principles came up in Tamatha’s recycling and food waste policy for the central city. With around 2000 households in Lambton Ward “blacklisted” for recycling, Tam has particular concerns about landfill being produced by the area. Recycling for blacklisted properties can be inaccessible for a number of reasons. Working on this by educating and supporting those households into better recycling practices is a “straightforward but significant way” to empower individuals into action.


However, she acknowledges individual action is insufficient, and the councillors and their communities need to work on pushing climate change to the front of all decision-making. “We have to stop thinking of ourselves as just Wellington. We’re global citizens […] it affects everywhere.”


Housing and Transport

Tamatha, like most people, is concerned about the state of public transport in Wellington. Transport is closely tied to housing for her as well.


She told Salient that although the current system was not working for many people, it affects students, low earners, and young people in particular. These groups are reliant on cheap public transport, particularly if they have to travel long distances for study or work. Unfortunately, to Tam, the current public transport system works directly against this. With unreliable service and high prices compared to other university cities, she wants to see more work done, including with better discounts for students.


Tamatha anticipates more and more students and lower wage residents moving out of the city centre as rents rise, and more people enter a city better suited for outward, rather than upward, growth (see: earthquakes).


This anticipated migration further out from the centre could compound the transport problem, similar to those already seen with existing issues around public transport in the Eastern suburbs. As a result, action on transport is essential to Tamatha.


She proposed a number of additional policies, such as minimum room sizes, light rail, shifting focus away from cars for transport, and better utilising the 14% of empty rooms in the centre city for those homeless or couchsurfing.


Mental Health

Given the issues already discussed, Tam described life in Wellington as a “rat race,” severely affecting wellbeing as people become isolated from the people they live with and the communities they inhabit. She said it was important to point out that this is an issue “not just for young people,” but for many around the country.


The main solution Tamatha discussed is promoting “collective and communal responsibility for mental health”. To do this, she proposed encouraging people to engage in community events and organisations. Helpfully, she says, these things already exist but just need more council support to extend and strengthen their reach in the community. One way of doing this is working on connecting up disparate organisations, something she said she found a passion for this year.


The Campaign

Tamatha said she was surprised at some of the people supporting her and her campaign. In particular, people of ages or backgrounds she didn’t initially expect to get behind her. She puts the support down to cynicism with the current council and its systems.


“[People are] fed up. Fed up to the point where they’re willing to give something new a try,” she said.


She also suspects that people who have previously expressed frustration with students and young people’s behaviour in the area, such as around the Fountown saga, realised little would happen without an appropriate decision-maker at the council level.


Tamatha is running as an independent for the ward. When asked if she thought this was fair, given her values, policies (for example light rail), and friends and supporters who are party affiliated—after contemplating the issue, she said she thought it was fair.


She accepts that if people think she’s effectively aligned with certain parties, there’s little she can do about it. However, she added that running as an independent went beyond values or policies.


“Being an independent isn’t necessarily about the views, it’s about rejecting the idea that any of those political parties are tied to ideas,” she said.


She elaborated, saying that she would be concerned any party responsibilities could come into conflict with responsibilities to her ward, and issue she would rather avoid.


To The Haters

To none of our surprise, Tamatha said she would continue to work on the issues she has been working on for the last few years, “because that’s my job”.


She says she’ll continue on fighting for the issues important to her communities, as well as supporting other voices and change makers.


From her experience as the VUWSA president, she knows that you “don’t have to be on council to have an impact on your community”.


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