Young Kiwis’ opinions matter in elections
The right to have an opinion is a gift that New Zealanders shouldn’t take for granted - we are blessed to live in a free, democratic and civil society.
I love my community. I care about my neighbours. And that’s why I got involved in local politics when I was 15.
I admit that politics isn’t the career path of the average teenager. But I was proud of my community and I felt like there were people on our local council who were trying to talk it down. Even though 75 per cent of my community’s residents were under the age of 45, most of our council was in their 50s.
When I was 18 I stood for council because I wanted to deliver a younger voice. I was fortunate enough to get elected, and in my first three years we pushed through a youth council and a skateboard park.
Kiwis are allowed to vote when they turn 18. Our parents’ and grandparents’ generations had the importance of voting drilled into them, which is why we see a high turnout with middle-aged and older people.
While some people might think 18 is too young to make an educated decision, there’s a lot of research that shows the earlier someone starts voting, the more likely it is that they’ll continue to do so. It’s important, then, for parents to talk to their kids about their community and country, about how decisions are made, and how they can influence change.
Voting shows an interest in and commitment to your community. Local government influences our lives - water, public transport, roading, parks, libraries, swimming pools, events - if you value those things, then it’s vital you vote for them.
The idea that ‘‘my vote won’t change anything’’ isn’t valid. There’s a saying, ‘‘Cities define countries’’. I’d go one step further and say, ‘‘suburbs define cities’’. If we can positively influence our neighbourhoods, we can shape broader policy and lifestyle.
Just one person can make a difference. I know a young mum who saw a need for lunches at her local school, so she started making them. Now she makes 1200 every day. That kind of initiative puts pressure on the Government. Communities can make a difference.
If your child hasn’t voted before or is almost 18, start telling them that their voice counts just as much as anyone else’s.
Young Kiwis are allowed to vote when they turn 18.