Rotorua‘s youngest councillor still in shock

Fisher Wang said he can't wait to get stuck into his new role as a Rotorua Lakes Councillor. BENN BATHGATE/STUFF

Fisher Wang had just finished his shift at McDonald's when the phone call that changed the 19-year-old's life came. 

It was 2pm on Saturday and Geoff Williams, the chief executive of Rotorua Lakes Council, was on the line to tell Wang he'd just become the youngest candidate ever to be elected as a councillor in the city.

"When I got that call, it really was an amazing feeling," he says. 

Fisher says Williams' voice was calm and measured, a tone he initially assumed was aimed at softening the incoming blow.

"I kind of had a bad feeling, until he said 'congratulations, you're in'."

Fisher paused and said just two words about that call. 

"That feeling."

Fisher says his election success is still sinking in, but it appears he's already used to the higher profile that comes with the territory. 

Before Stuff could sit down with the newly elected councillor, a request for selfies from two of the Cafe staff were granted. 

Fisher says he has always had an interest in politics which "started out small," watching the news, participating in model United Nations discussions. 

That small interest grew one day in 2017 when, on the campaign trail and visiting Rotorua, he met Jacinda Ardern.

"That moment opened my eyes to the possibility of running," he says. 

He also received a call from the Prime Minister on the Saturday night - a call he admits he almost didn't answer due to the 'no caller ID' which appeared.

He's glad he did pick up.

He says the Prime Minister spent around 15 minutes talking with him, asking about his campaign and speaking about her rise through the political ranks.

She had some advice for the freshly minted councillor too. 

"Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself. It was really nice of her to give me a call."

He says he experienced some initial concern from voters when on the campaign trail, mostly he said about his relative youth, but he pinpointed another specific event when he believes a corner was turned. 

"The reaction changed, especially at the Greypower event.

"You've got some good ideas [they told him], they said they'd misjudged me and my age."

There was also one notable bump in the campaign road. 

It happened when Fisher was installing election signs and found himself subject to racial abuse hurled from a passing car.

"I'm not voting for some ******* Chinaman.

"We were all a bit shocked, stunned. Did they actually say that?"

He says it isn't his first brush with such abuse, and that despite being born and raised in Rotorua, calls to 'go back to your own country' have been made in the past. 

It's clear, thankfully, that that sentiment isn't shared among the wider voting population. 

Fisher secured 7058 votes and topped incumbent Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson and councillor Trevor Maxwell, New Zealand's longest serving councillor, to come in at seventh out of ten councillors. 

He says he's keen to get started in his new role, with interviews with the mayor scheduled for Monday as well as a practice inauguration ceremony. 

Fisher wants to focus on issues including increasing the youth voice in local government, sustainability issues and Rotorua's tourism sector, "a huge source of income for Rotorua".

He wants to see more young people voting too, and had a simple message for those avoiding the ballot box.

"You're giving up your voice."

While he admits he is "still in a state of shock" Wang said he has one other pressing matter to consider, whether to quit McDonald's.

"It's a huge possibility."

 -Stuff/Benn Bathgate.


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