Tagata Pasifika

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New Zealand television
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Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Teen standing for local board could be NZ’s keenest young politician

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Tawhi-Marsters is hoping to win the by-election for a seat on the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

Teenager Nevaeh Tawhi-Marsters might be Aotearoa’s keenest wannabe local politician.

She had pinned her hopes on winning a seat on the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board in last year’s local body elections, only to find out that – at 17 years of age – she was too young to stand.

But not one to give up, the East Tamaki resident has decided to run again.

The opportunity came up after Labour candidate Swanie Nelson resigned, sparking a by-election.

Now 18, Tawhi-Marsters is working as an administrator for the Ōtara Youth Hub.

The former Tangaroa College student said she is standing because she wants to see young people have a greater say in the area.

“I think the board makes some good decisions, but it lacks a youth perspective. And I want to see more young people involved,” she said.

“I think we need to see our youth more engaged in the community.”

Auckland Mayor Wayne Brown’s cost-cutting budget triggers early job losses. Photo: Retrieved from NewstalkZB

She said she’s opposed to Mayor Wayne Brown’s budget cuts, which are expected to hit South Auckland community groups hard.

Tawhi-Marsters said people are already doing it tough in the area and organisations like the Ōtara Youth Hub need all the support they can get.

“I think in South Auckland the cuts will just take away the small amount we currently get.”

And despite the fact it’s her first time on the campaign trail, she’s confident she can win.

If she does, she will be the youngest person on the Ōtara-Papatoetoe Local Board.

Other candidates standing include independent Angela Hann, Ōtara First’s Albert Jackson and the Labour Party’s Lorenzo Kaisara.

But it’s not the first time such a young candidate has run for office in Auckland.

In 2001, 18-year-old Paula Gillon ran for a seat on the North Shore City Council just months after leaving school and became New Zealand’s youngest elected city councillor.

Billed as the “naked politician”, she posed on billboards in her underwear. The stunt drew criticism, but she won the Harbour ward.

Meanwhile, controversial former National MP Jami-Lee Ross was just 18 years of age when he was elected to the Manukau City Council in 2004.

Bryce Edwards Bryce Edwards is a political commentator and researcher who runs Victoria University’s Democracy Project. Photo: MONIQUEFORD/STUFF

Bryce Edwards is a political commentator and researcher who runs Victoria University’s Democracy Project.

He said it has become far more common for younger candidates to stand for local government since the likes of Ross and Gillon first made headlines.

Edwards said local body politics used to be the domain of older people who had often had a previous career in another field.

Younger people nowadays often see politics as a career path and a stepping stone to bigger and brighter things.

“And it’s perceived by young people as more significant and exciting – with major issues like climate change, transport and housing.

“There are some advantages to having some life experience and age in politics and you might have different incentives if you are approaching it as a career option.”

However, he said having more people from different age groups and backgrounds taking part in the democratic process has to be a good thing.

Local democracy reporting

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