Young Ki­wis’ opin­ions mat­ter in elec­tions

Kapi-Mana News - - FRONT PAGE - OPIN­ION: NICK LEGGETT

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.

PHOTO: 123RF

Young Ki­wis are al­lowed to vote when they turn 18.

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