There are more than 30 candidates under the age of 30 standing in this year’s election. Voter turnout statistics for the 2017 general election for people under 30 hover below 70 per cent. But, young people are making their mark in their own way, from the School Strike 4 Climate marches to the Make it 16 campaigners arguing to lower the voting age in the High Court.
1 NEWS talks to the youngest candidates running for National, Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and ACT to find out what makes them tick and why they’re running for Parliament.
Green Party candidate for Mt Albert Luke Wijohn is no stranger to the limelight.
Last year, the 18-year-old was part of the organising team for the Auckland School Strike 4 Climate protests.
“I decided there in front of all those people that I would spend this year fighting for as many party votes as possible to remove as many of those, sort of, climate denial, older ways of thinking MPs and replace them with strong, progressive Green MPs,” Wijohn said.
When 1 NEWS went to speak to Wijohn, he happened to be outside Auckland’s Town Hall protesting the proposed removal of native trees on Canal Rd in Avondale. The protestors called for Auckland Council to purchase the property the trees were on to save them, after blanket tree protections were scrapped in 2012 after changes to the Resource Management Act.
Wijohn himself is currently occupying a tōtara.
“I think it's all one and the same really,” he said of his activism while on the campaign trail.
“It's all about talking to people and figuring out what our values are as a country.”
Wijohn said part of what drove him to politics was that he believed the “current people in power are not making the rules in a way that favours all of us”.
“Most people want those who have succeeded the most and have inherited the most wealth to share a little bit of that to make sure we don’t have any kids in poverty,” he said.
Wijohn said, increasingly, “a normal teenage life” meant marching down the streets for climate change action.
“Having young people in Parliament would be an awesome way to make sure that it does care about long term issues.
“I think any decision-making table is made stronger by having many people of different perspectives and different life experiences around that table.”
But, Wijohn recognised he was in a fortunate position.
“Candidates don’t get paid. Activists don’t get paid. I’m only able to do any of this because I am still living at home and I have parents who love me unconditionally and provide me with the support I need to stand up for what I believe in.
“I just wish that every kid, no matter what family they're born into, would also have the love and support.
“There are so many other young people who could do an awesome job, a better job even, of this if we had a system that recognises everyone’s inherent mana.”