Tauranga’s youngest councillor is stepping down after an unsuccessful re-election campaign.
Matt Cowley was elected to his first term in 2013 at the tender age of 30 – the youngest councillor since outgoing mayor Stuart Crosby was elected in 1986.
Understandably, the loss is disappointing for Matt. He attributes part of the problem to low voter turnout, and a crowded mayoral race.
“I do think the number of mayoral candidates put people off voting a bit, because there were too many choices,” says Matt.
“Voter turnout was really low, so that was a contributing factor.”
His unorthodox approach to campaigning might also have disadvantaged him.
“The majority of my campaign was also on digital platforms, so it wouldn’t have reached the older audience as well. But that was a deliberate strategy on my behalf. It was a risk, and it didn’t pay off unfortunately.”
Many long-serving councillors, such as Rick Curach, have made it back on council, while former councillors Larry Baldock and Terry Molloy have also returned after being turfed out previously.
“When you look at the candidates who were elected, the community shifted towards a conservative-leaning council. Obviously that’s what the voters wanted, and that’s what they’re going to get for the next three years.”
Matt says he was a centre or centre-right candidate, but his ideas for investment were a little different to those who made it on.
His focus has always been on younger residents, and hopes the new council takes them into account.
“In terms of trying to stop the tide of young people leaving the city, that’s going to take longer than three years. More career opportunities and lifestyle options are needed.”
He hopes his experience hasn’t put younger people off running for council, although he advises them they’ll need to start thinking about it sooner rather than later.
As to his own political future, Matt is remaining coy.
“I’m not ruling anything out,” he says.
“But I’m quite keen to get back to my career and earn some decent money.”