Get political

Page - November 30, 2006
In New Zealand you can lobby central government politicians, and you can also contact local councilors, who are your representatives on city, district and regional councils. Your local Member of Parliament (MP) or councilor is elected to office by the public. They have obligations to represent the concerns of their electorate in parliament and within council.

WELLINGTON: Greenpeace activists display a billboard commenting on the labour leader's stance on GE.

Without your vote, your MP is powerless. You can use your voting power before an election or while your MP is in power to make positive political change.

Contact your MP or councilor if you want to:

  • Raise an important local issue and encourage your representative to take a strong stand
  • Communicate your concerns about an upcoming parliamentary or council debate
  • Start a debate about an issue and push for public consultation

Pressuring MP's and councilors effectively requires careful thought, preparation and follow-up. Meeting them in person demonstrates that you feel strongly about an issue. It's also a good way to monitor your politician's attitude on an issue.

Before you meet with any politician, it's useful to find out as much as you can about them, especially in relation to your issue. Most MPs have their own websites where you can check press releases. You can also read speeches they may have made in parliament, by checking the parliamentary record.

  • www.localgovt.co.nz - A portal for local government authorities across New Zealand (city, district and regional councils).
  • www.govt.nz - A portal for access to information about New Zealand government.
  • www.parliament.nz - Link to New Zealand parliament site, with information on parties represented in parliament and a list of all MPs.

Contacting your local MP or councilor

When you email or write to your MP or councilor, always include your address to remind them you do live in their electorate.

Once you've written to your MP requesting a meeting, you can phone to make an appointment. Local MPs set days aside for electorate issues (usually Monday and Friday). Be aware that they will be busy when parliament is sitting (usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday). If you have trouble getting a meeting, it could be because your issue has already gathered some political weight and your local MP has too many requests to discuss it. Or they may have other ministerial or parliamentary responsibilities that leave less time to meet with constituents. Polite persistence is usually the best strategy.

If you're going to the meeting as a group, ensure:

  • You all have a good understanding of the issue.
  • You have nominated spokespeople for each topic.
  • One person is responsible for taking notes during the meeting.
  • You have a copy of supporting materials.
  • You have a clear ask for your MP. You may ask them to table a petition, write a letter to a minister, consider a local issue or contact a government department.

Dress appropriately (that is, look respectable). Your MP is judging the whole package, not just what you say (rightly or wrongly, that's how it is).

Before you leave the meeting, try to get a clear commitment of help from your MP. Don't settle for vague promises.

After the meeting, write to thank the MP for meeting with you and outline what you discussed. In particular, don't let them forget any promises they made!