National | Bullying

Survey reveals local body elected officials targeted in bullying and discrimination attacks

A recent survey has revealed that elected officials in local government have come under harmful attack while doing their jobs.

Nearly half of those surveyed have experienced racism, gender discrimination and other harmful forms of behaviour.

Local Government New Zealand president Stuart Crosby said the purpose of the survey was to "better understand the experiences that elected officials face at work and touched on topics such as diversity, inclusion, bullying and harassment".

Crosby said there were more Māori and women being elected into local government.

'Puts diversity at risk'

“We need our councils to reflect the diversity in our communities and this type of behaviour puts the progress we’ve begun to make at risk."

LGNZ chief executive Susan Freeman-Green said local government was full of hard-working, community-minded people "but, ultimately, we’re all responsible for making sure our workplaces and communities are safe spaces where everyone gets the chance to contribute".

Freeman-Green said many of the elected people in local governments have started to campaign for the local body elections but said she was already concerned with some of the behaviour already being witnessed.

“LGNZ is working hard to make sure local government is a safe and inclusive environment for all elected members and new candidates.

‘Candidates feel more protected’

A move by the government has seen the addresses of candidates removed from campaign advertising.

“This goes a long way to making candidates feel more protected when they put their hand up. We’re also providing candidates with the tools they need to run a safe campaign and elected members to do their job once they take office.” Freeman-Green said.

“Local democracies across the globe are grappling with issues around councillors, mayors and other elected members being bullied or harassed on the job. It’s not an issue exclusive to New Zealand or even just our sector. But that is not an excuse not to address it in our sector,” Crosby said.