Pasifika youth list warm, affordable housing as key issue in 2020 election

Warm, affordable housing is the defining issue for Pasifika youth this election.

A file image of property in Wellington. Source: 1 NEWS

By Mariner Fagaiava-Muller

The Pacific Climate Warriors, who led the school climate strikes last year, have released a report alongside their Pacific Votes Count campaign.

Fair wages and working conditions and the cost of living are also headline priorities respondents want addressed.

The campaign was launched in June and focused on supporting Pasifika communities to enrol to vote, engage in robust political discussion and make informed decisions when voting. 

An accompanying survey was responded to by 541 Pacific people, of which nearly half were 16 to 24 years old.

While most respondents knew where they could find information on political parties and their local electorate candidates, there still remains holes in Pasifika election engagement, the report found. 

Just under half of the survey participants  - 233 people, or 43 per cent - indicated they were unsure as to who where they could find local candidate information.

While 52 per cent identified as having a clear understanding of the election process, 47 per cent do not know what to do if they cannot get to a voting place.

"Political candidates cannot underestimate the importance of connecting with Pacific young voters on a personal level, including asking about their concerns and creating policy proposals that will resonate with Pacific youth," says the report, written by Mary Gafaomalietoa Sapati Moeono-Kolio and Ulu Robert Afaese.

The highest turnout of the survey was from South Auckland at 34 per cent, showing that political engagement in the area is on the rise. 

In the 2017 general election, the electorates of Māngere, Manurewa and Manukau East had the lowest voter turnout - 65.10 per cent, 64.51 per cent, 62.65 per cent respectively, compared to the national average of 78.61 per cent.

Survey participant Nathan Leopa says there has "never been a more crucial time" for Pasifika voters in New Zealand than now.

"With the changing times and the large number of Pasifika people in New Zealand, our voice is at its most valuable. The future of this country is Pasifika," he says. 

"Governments have changed over the years, but the needs of Pasifika people have not."

Many of the survey respondants implored politicians to improve their collaboration and consultation with Pacific communities in New Zealand. 

That often means having Pasifika members of Parliament is simply not enough. 

Respondents did not feel understood and supported to excel. 

One respondent said: "Speak to us, not for us. Oftentimes, 'speaking for' actually means speaking over and I'm not here for it."

Another suggested: "Go out to churches, maraes, your streets and speak with your constituents."

"Final thought: New Zealand is a diverse nation with people from a vast array of different backgrounds; is this diverse population being sufficiently and appropriately catered for? Or are we all just expected to fit a certain mould, or be seen as a problem?"