Students take vote seriously
Christchurch students say they are more interested in voting than ever before, despite low youth enrolment.
Figures from the Electoral Commission show 20,000 fewer people under 30 have registered to vote compared with 2014.
Only 67 per cent of 18 to 24-yearolds and 75 per cent of 25 to 29-yearolds have registered, although the commission expected more to enrol before September 23.
Registration and early voting centres at the University of Canterbury and Ara Institute of Technology were in full swing last week. Students blamed low youth enrolment on those out of education.
They cited education, mental health, tax, housing, climate change, inequality and personality as issues influencing their votes.
The Press spoke to 20 students, many of whom preferred the youthful energy of Jacinda Ardern and local Labour candidates to their ‘‘condescending’’ and ‘‘unlikeable’’ National counterparts.
Few were drawn by Labour’s free tertiary education scheme, concerned it would be wasted on directionless, party-driven firstyear students. Opinions ranged from supportive to indifferent and ‘‘disgusted’’.
Several said they would prefer to have their last year of study paid for, or a student loan rebate once they had finished studying.
Others recognised its value, even if they would never access it themselves. Waimakariri voter Rhiannon Evans, 25, wanted to ‘‘give the next generation the leg up’’ after feeling hers had been neglected.
Becci Louise, 24, said there had been ‘‘a bum on every seat’’ at each of the four debates that week and credited Tuesday’s 400-person turnout to the appearance of Ilam MP Gerry Brownlee – his first on the campus in eight years.
Due to graduate in February, she, like many students, would miss out on promises of free fees and bigger student allowances.
‘‘This is a spending election because we’ve got a surplus, so everyone is dishing out incentives, but a lot of people I study with have been left out of the equation.’’
She voted on Thursday for ‘‘future-focused values’’ like environmental sustainability and tackling inequality.
Ilam electorate voter Jane Comeau, 20, would base her first ever vote on ‘‘social inequality and the housing crisis, particularly’’.
She agreed with National’s approach to funding tertiary education, saying students would treat university like ‘‘party school’’ if fees were fully funded, but was unsure that would sway her to vote blue.
Jacob Butson, a member of Young National, feared Labour’s plan would ‘‘water down’’ the value of his degree. He thought any free tertiary scheme should ‘‘reward those who have already completed’’ their studies. Tax was most important to him.
‘‘I don’t think taxing farmers is an answer to our dirty water crisis,’’ the Wigram voter said.
Harry Van der Zanden, 25, said he would vote for National Port Hills candidate Nuk Korako but was ‘‘100 per cent’’ voting for free education, including tertiary study. It would be his first time voting in a general election after several years overseas. ‘‘New Zealand had a free education system in the past and I don’t think it affected us [adversely]. I’m totally for the idea, but only if it can be worked into the economy.’’
ACT Party loyalists Tim Hickson and Asher Etherington, both 21, worried Labour’s tertiary education scheme would create an uneconomic glut of lawyers and similar professionals. They believed fees subsidies would be better targeted towards students’ final year of study.
Both men cared about mental health policy and housing, but Etherington had another overriding focus: ‘‘I’m voting for a lot of personality.’’