Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Rangatahi take the lead in Ōtara-Papatoetoe by-election

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Vasa Fia Collins (2nd from left) with Year 13 students from Tangaroa College.
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

High school students are taking the initiative to lift voting rates for the Ōtara-Papatoetoe by-election, after a low turn-out in the local body elections last October.

With only a week until voting closes (28 June) just 1,000 of the 23,000 voting papers have been returned.

Diversity and Inclusion specialist, Vasa Fia Collins, held training sessions with a group of Year 13 students from Tangaroa College and Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate, and on Wednesday night those same students will put all four by-election candidates through their paces in a special event at Ōtara Library.

“These students are going to fly, they are really pumped and excited to take part,” says Collins.

Vasa Fia Collins (2nd from right) with Year 13 students from Sir Edmund Hillary Collegiate.

She says the opportunity to work with rangatahi was important, a deliberate move to focus on the long term given the low voter turnout for Pacific communities in general.

“There is a massive disconnect with the election processes and our communities … the system is not targeting them at all, it’s a really tough one.”

Pacific people are often working multiple jobs, in shift work, juggling family obligations and are more transient which creates further barriers to participate in elections.

Council’s Head of Pacific Democracy Services Eddie Tuiavii. Photo: LinkedIn

However, Collins says new measures by Auckland Council show it’s serious about reaching out to Pacific communities after discovering at least half a dozen families who had yet to receive voter registration forms. She contacted the Council’s Head of Pacific Democracy Services Eddie Tuiavii, who took swift action.

“Straight away Eddie Tuiavii said, ‘let’s have a voter pop-up’. To have someone who gets it and does something. He’s a godsend for our people.”

Speaking on 531pi, Tuiavii says he’s massively excited about Wednesday night, knowing the benefit it will have for the rangatahi running the event. He also acknowledges Pacific people can feel disconnected from the political process and that Pacific communities tended to congregate where council wasn’t present.

“One of the things is if they don’t see themselves or culture in the candidates … they don’t think of politics as being relevant. That’s what tonight is about, the opportunity to access these candidates.”

The council had upped its game from last year’s local body elections when there were only three in-person centres to cast special votes, whereas for this by-election, there are seven places to cast a vote.

“Engagement is different for this election. We’re coming to local churches, bringing democracy to the people, to the community,” he says referring to the registration and voting booth at the Ōtara Markets this weekend.

Tuiavii says the four candidates, Angela Hann, Albert Jackson of Ōtara First, Labour’s Lorenzo Kaisara and Nevaeh Tawhi-Marsters of ALL 444 YOUTH, are people who live and breathe Ōtara -Papatoetoe.

“Come for an opportunity to ask questions, whether they really care, ask about what they want to do if they’re successful to come onto the local board.”

He says research shows when people start voting at a young age they remained engaged politically in the long term.

“There are obvious consequences [when people don’t vote], things are done to you, if you don’t usually cast your vote, the propensity to not vote is higher … [and] you’re not heard.”

Photo: Auckland Council

Tuiavii said the recent finalising of the Council’s annual budget was a good example of the difference between “decisions made for you as opposed to being made with you” given the 40,000 plus submissions received.

The Panel for the Review into the Future for Local Government released its final report yesterday, He piki tūranga, he piki kōtuku, which includes a set of recommendations to deliver better democracy outcomes for local communities.

When asked about improving engagement with Pacific peoples, the panel said building trust between communities and institutions were among the 17 recommendations being made.

“Local communities are not being served well by local and central government, a reset is required,” says panel chair Jim Palmer.

The panel also acknowledged the postal voting method urgently needed a review given many younger people viewed posting documents as a relic of the past, and that in the future it would have to consider tools including digital.

Mayor Wayne Brown is still considering the detail of the report findings but thinks there are some good ideas in it, such as the proposed annual transfer from central government of revenue equivalent to GST charged on rates. He also agrees in principle that Cabinet should be required to consider the funding impact on local government of proposed policy decisions.

Ōtara -Papatoetoe by-election Meet the Candidates event:

  • Wed June 21, 6pm – 8pm at the Ōtara Library, Ōtara Town Centre

Register and Vote events:

  • Saturday 24 June, 10am-1pm – Ōtara Town Centre, Ōtara
  • Sunday 25 June, 10am-12pm – St John the Evangelist Church –  14 Ōtara Road,  Ōtara.

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