Dunedin councillors eligible for childcare allowance

Cr Aaron Hawkins
Cr Aaron Hawkins
Dunedin city councillors will be among elected members eligible for a new childcare allowance from next month.

The move comes after the Remuneration Authority confirmed it had approved the new allowance - worth up to $6000 per elected member each year - last week.

The allowance would be available only to elected members on councils and community boards that signed up for the initiative.

That included the Dunedin City Council, which signalled its support when it submitted to the Remuneration Authority in favour of the proposal last month.

The DCC's allowance would be rates-funded, coming from the council's civic budget which covered other councillor expenses.

The initiative had been among changes under consideration by the Remuneration Authority, and was also promoted by members of Local Government New Zealand's young elected members committee.

The committee, which was co-chaired by Dunedin city councillor Aaron Hawkins, aimed in part to support younger elected representatives and encourage more to stand for office.

Cr Hawkins, contacted yesterday, said the allowance aimed to remove the cost of childcare as a barrier to participation in local government.

At present, some sectors of society - such as mothers with young children - were under-represented around the council table, because childcare arrangements and costs were an impediment to standing for election.

Elected representatives were already eligible for other forms of financial support, such as mileage for those travelling long distances to council meetings, to compensate them for the costs incurred in their roles.

A childcare allowance would make it easier for another group of potential candidates to ''put their hand up'', Cr Hawkins said.

He was particularly pleased to see the allowance would be ''public knowledge'' before local body elections in October, when ''such an obstacle might tip the balance'' for some wanting to stand.

Cr Hawkins - who is a young father -will again seek a council seat and the Dunedin mayoralty in October.

He said he would not claim the allowance before the election, as childcare costs were ''not a barrier for me''.

Nor would he do so afterwards, if elected mayor, he said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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