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Making a difference

A greener, greater Christchurch is what Mike Davidson stands for. At 43, the independent Papanui Ward Councillor appreciates Generation X in the political arena. “We understand the older generations, but also appreciate the needs and aspirations of younger people – such as mental health and action on climate change.



“People talk about the ‘boomers’ or ‘millennials’, but forget about Generation X. Political leaders like Jacinda Ardern, Simon Bridges and James Shaw are from Gen X and are making a difference.”

Mike has plenty of political DNA. His grandfather marginally missed out in the polls; the same fate befalling his dad. The third-time-lucky-member of the Davidson family would love to retain his role as councillor. He even moved house with his wife Fiona and pets Jess and Mr T when St Albans’ electorate boundaries changed, to remain in the ward he represents.

He believes Christchurch is heading in the right direction, and now children can cycle safely to school. He’s behind a better transport infrastructure to encourage walking and public transport, and advocates for rail and chlorine-free water.

Last year he pushed his physical boundaries in the Coast to Coast, Le Race, and 42km Christchurch Marathon. Mike now eats less dairy and meat and more local organic produce for a healthier body and environment.

He owns an electric car, but mainly bikes everywhere. “It’s great to get out, clear your mind, and get mentally and physically fit.

“We have a great city that puts people and the environment front and centre. The power is with the people to create communities all generations can enjoy.”



Now is the time to get involved

It’s shaping up to be an exciting local body election in Christchurch. There are a number of contenders for the mayoralty race, which is producing some lively debate. We hope that this will also translate to more people having their say at the polling booths.



In 2016, just 38 percent of people eligible to vote in Christchurch did so. This reflects a general downward trend in voter turnout for local government elections. Throughout the country, voter turnout for local elections was only a little higher at 42 percent.

Compare this to parliamentary elections in 2017, where turnout was almost 75 percent. So why is there less interest and engagement in local body elections? Given the potential impact on our lives in terms of provision of services and shaping public policy, it could be argued that local government has a much more direct impact.

My guess is that a lack of interest is fuelled by the unknown factor. People just don’t know who is running or what they stand for. Local candidates don’t have the same campaign budget as our national governing parties – but they do have presence. So I would encourage candidates to voice their views and for residents to get behind the process by asking the tough questions of their candidates.

As an Employers’ Chamber, we are interested in hearing about what candidates will do to support local businesses and enable economic growth in the region. In particular, what candidates will set out to achieve at a practical, tangible level, beyond just big picture aspirations.

Asset management is one of the issues that has been around for a while now and it’s one that we keep returning to – so this will be top of our question list for candidates. Clutching on to the old ways of doing things will only get us so far; we need to look at new innovative ways of doing things differently, such as bringing partners on board for strategic collaborations.

The current council has also done well to put the central city in the spotlight. As the heart of our region, we need to ensure that our future council understands the gravity of getting it right. So what do candidates think should be done to further promote economic activity in the CBD?

The vision in the Long Term Plan was Christchurch as a place of opportunity for all – a place that is open to new ideas, new people and new ways of doing things; a place where anything is possible. But where is the tangible plan to align this with reality?

It also comes down to communication. People need to know what’s happening – or not happening – and why. The local community needs confidence to know that we are being kept in the loop and the certainty that our rates and taxes are being spent wisely and well.

We are so fortunate to have a strong democratic process that we owe it to ourselves to make the most of it. Have a say. Voice your opinion. Ask the tough questions. And above all, vote. Our local government should represent our community, but that won’t happen if we don’t involve ourselves in the process. Now is the time that you can make a difference.


By Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce Chief Executive Leeann Watson