Just prior to going on holiday last year I was fascinated by the Heralds weak attempt to try and set the civic Auckland agenda with a silly poll on possible contenders for the Auckland mayoralty. It showed Len Brown as marginally ahead of Phil Goff and mentioned the likes of John Banks making a return, Michael Barnett and Penny Hulse. Of interest to me is the way this so-called political reporting, coupled with their biased polls suggests that Brown’s days are numbered and its time for yet another white male to lead the city with the exception of Penny Hulse.
The Herald is obviously out of touch with the community, but does a great job at feeding the unintelligent stereotypes that pervade popular, mainstream discourse. Underpinning the ideas of these kinds of stories is the notion that Auckland needs a male from a particular background to offer the leadership and direction that the city needs. And whilst a palagi male may well be the best person for the job at present, the issue for me is the way in which news agencies persist with this idea, making little attempt to be self critical, thus deconstructing their own ideas and ultimately, their own privilege.
Auckland is a diverse city with people of multiple ethnicities, leanings and traditions. Decisions for the city are best made by diverse views and backgrounds at the table because they make provision for different experiences and expectations. It’s for the basic good of an evolving city to have people of different backgrounds contributing to the future and direction of the city. I’m still pleasantly amused by the people in this city who think that more roads, single occupant cars and quarter acre properties is the way of the future. But perhaps such thinking remains the terrain of those holding fast to a city that was monocultural and now, historic.
Nurturing new leadership and talent takes compassion, hard work, time and humility. It forces us as a society to reflect on a sense of entitlement that really only exists in our imaginations. Encouraging those from backgrounds other than our own to participate in our society and have a sense of voice is a really challenging activity (for some). I look forward to the day our great city will be led by an indigenous Maori, a woman, an Asian, Pasifika… anyone who’s committed to making this city an even fairer, inclusive and greater place to live, work, study and play in. Because unless we seek wider participation and inclusion, we neglect the very soul of a developing city – diversity.