With our annual Suffrage Event approaching where women candidates have the chance to speak to small groups of people from their wards, we are learning more and more about the different women running in local elections. We spoke with Maxine van Oosten about her priorities for council, running as a woman and what this year’s elections bring.
Tell us about yourself!
As a teenager I went to school at Maeroa Intermediate School and Fraser High School. I moved back to Hamilton 27 years ago with my husband to raise our family here.
I work as an advocate for teachers and education staff at NZEI Te Riu Roa. I’ve spent the past year fighting a successful campaign alongside teachers for a fair pay rise. Now I’m doing the same with teacher aides so they can achieve wage justice to address historically low paid women’s work.
I believe in people power – when we stand together, we can have a voice & we can effect change.
I’ve also 20 years of finance experience so that makes me a valuable asset around the table in financial debates.
Affordable housing, better transport options that reduce carbon emissions and booming businesses offering great jobs – that’s my vision for Hamilton. We are growing fast and must have a plan that halts climate change, takes care of business and delivers the best lifestyles to Hamiltonians.
I will promote Council accountability for spending, that’s why I referred murky Council property transactions to the Auditor General and the Serious Fraud Office. Last year Council approved the purchase of 4 buildings on Victoria Street paying $6.49m for the buildings, up to 56 per cent more than market valuation. Why?
I will look for ways to make it easier for residents to vote. I support Civic Education in our schools (at all levels) and will encourage Council to develop resources for teachers to use to help engage our future voters.
It sounds like you have some amazing plans for Hamilton! If you had to pick your top 3 priorities what would they be?
- Affordable housing: Owning a home is such an important part of the kiwi dream and more and more it is becoming something that fewer people can aspire to. Council has to come up with creative ways to enable this. The new ‘land trust’ established by Council is a good start but it’s only $2M so must be increased. Let’s use successful town planning models from around the world to ensure we are planning for the future, building higher density, incentivising developers with faster cheaper consent processes when they meet specific criteria. Let’s make our future city livable with places to work & play closer to where we live.
- Council accountability for spending: We deserve better value for money from Council, and that’s what I offer. I will vote against any future pay rise of the CEO’s $440,000 salary, instead I would want to see those on lower wages paid a Living Wage.
- Better Transport solutions: Transport that lowers carbon emissions, that gets Hamiltonians out of cars, and considers all the road users. A good bus service is critical to move people around our city, I support free fares for students all day, every day. I love my ebike but feel vulnerable on the road, I want to see the planning and delivery of a network safe bike lanes. I welcome the Hamilton to Auckland rail link, I’ve fought alongside others for more than a decade to get it. I want to be at the table pushing for it to be better – we need more services, more carriages, and eventually electric trains straight to the Auckland CBD.
How do you propose to practically make these happen?
The only way to achieve change is to have the support of the majority of Council. The skills I have developed through my advocacy work at NZEI makes me someone who can work with others, who can collaborate and who can listen before making decisions.
You have run for council before, do you think being a woman affects your campaign?
I stood in the Hamilton East By-Election in 2018, which came about due to the death of Philip Yeung. I think it’s hard for women to run for office. Having the confidence, the financial backing and the time is a challenge. I have a great team of family and friends to support me, encourage me and to prop me up when I doubt myself.
You say you believe in the power of people, yet only 33% of Hamilton voted in the last local elections, do you think this election is any different and why?
Yes. I get a feeling it’s very different this time. There is a real focus on encouraging young people to get involved. We have really credible younger candidates standing, we are talking about issues of interest to youth like the impacts of climate change, affordable housing and technology. I support and will promote Civic Education in schools to help engage voters of the future. I see a mood for change and I welcome that.