Stu­dents take vote se­ri­ously

The Press - - News - ADELE RED­MOND

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.’’

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