After our amazing ‘Voices of Women’ event with #PoliticsInTheTron, DV Bryant, Free FM, Go Eco and The Meteor and the following practical workshop for Electioneering Women held by Kelli Pike, we were hoping some women would emerge in our local politics. Luckily Louise Hutt stepped up to the plate. We chatted to her about politics, women and what her campaign is about.
Tell us about yourself!
My name is Louise Hutt and I'm 26-years -old. I'm currently the youngest CEO of an electricity company in New Zealand and a member of the governance board for GoEco - the Waikato's largest community organisation dedicated to sustainability. My main hobby at the moment is trying to keep my houseplants alive - but I also like to knit, play video games, and go tramping. I graduated yesterday with a Master's of Media and Creative Technologies, and this year I'm also running for Mayor and Hamilton West in our local body election.
What made you want to run in the upcoming election?
I've always been frustrated at how little energy is put into making local body politics understandable for most people (but especially young people) and how few politicians actually center climate change or wellbeing in their decisions. It's outrageous to me that in a city of 160,000 people, you only need 8,000 votes to be mayor. Nearly half of our city is under 30, and we have no councilors under 30! Women make up more than half of our city, but we only make up 23% of council! People are unengaged, and it's because we need different people in politics - so here I am.
How do you think being a woman will affect your campaign?
Especially after the events in Christchurch, and with climate change on our horizon, I think we're starting to realise how the status quo of leadership isn't working. I hope that being a young woman candidate is met with encouragement and excitement, but having been an outspoken feminist on the internet for a long time, I wouldn't be surprised to see some hate either. If you want to support any women candidates who you see getting harassed online, I think the easiest thing you can do is to be vocal in your support and use those report buttons - let them know there are people who have their back and it won't be tolerated.
What do you think about women in politics here in NZ?
There are some amazing wāhine toa in politics in New Zealand but I would love to see more women involved who aren't career politicians. If you've been in politics a long time, and been paid what successful politicians are paid - it becomes harder to know the reality of inequality in New Zealand, and how much worse sexism is when it's paired with financial inequality. Marama Davidson is a huge hero of mine - I saw her speak on campus several years ago just after she'd entered parliament, and she spoke about how she she'd struggled to find a warm, dry, affordable home for her family only months before she became an MP - and that being a elected politicians shouldn't be the only way you can have a safe, healthy home to live in. She's the kind of person I want to see more of in politics.
What are your goals for this election?
I want more people, and especially young people, to understand local body government and how it effects us. I want to change the conversation - I want to talk about climate change and wellbeing and how we make a city that everyone can thrive in. I want to be an example, I want people to say "Well Louise ran for Mayor, so why can't I?". But most of all, I want people to see a leader they can believe in - who will be courageous and do the right thing because we can't afford to do nothing anymore.
What would you do if you were elected?
We know that climate change is going to cause flooding and temperature rises for Hamilton, so we need to look at our drainage and storm water infrastructure to mitigate more floods and we need to make sure our roads and buildings are going to withstand being hotter, and hotter for longer too. We also need to think about how we can be lowering our council's carbon emissions - climate change is something we're contributing to and making worse. I also want to see us be more honest about who our city is helping and who they aren't - what is "affordable" housing if nearly 40% of people over the age of 15 in Hamilton earns $20,000 or less a year, but the median house price is $500,000? I could go on but you can read more at https://mayor.louisehutt.com/#vision
Where would you like to see women in politics in 5 years?
I'd like to see more women making decisions in our local and central government! But especially more LGBTI women, wāhine Māori and women from ethnic minorities, women with disabilities - women who aren't currently represented and who should be.
How can people support you in your campaign?
You can join our volunteer mailing list, or donate any spare change you might have over at https://mayor.louisehutt.com/#support but the easiest thing you can do is make sure you're enrolled to vote, and check with all your whānau if they're enrolled too - and best of all, it's free and you can do it online at https://www.elections.org.nz/voters/enrol-check-or-update-now
What's something you want to tell women who might be afraid to get into politics?
It's totally normal to be hesitant or nervous about thinking of entering politics, but if you have people around you who know their stuff and are willing to support you - you'll be okay. With my team at work, we always talk about staying humble and being curious - so being humble because no one person has all the answers, but if we're curious about what everyone else can bring to the table, we can figure it out together. I think politics is the same - don't try to do everything on your own, put together a team you believe in, and you'll be amazed at what you can achieve.
Supporting out local women to get into politics is so important in ensuring that women have a equal future in politics. We are proud to see our local women stepping up and making the word their oyster!