Youngest local body election candidate in Auckland says youth 'neglected'

5:37 pm on 22 September 2019
Polling booths are open for New Zealand's general election in Auckland on September 23, 2017. (Photo by MICHAEL BRADLEY / AFP)

A 19-year-old Auckland local body election candidate will focus on engaging the youth in local issues and improving transport if elected. Photo: AFP or licensors

The youngest candidate for Auckland's local body election says young people's voices have been neglected and a change is needed.

Nineteen-year-old Isaac Mercer is standing for a seat in the Ōrākei Local Board in central Auckland.

He said community leaders called him "silly" after he spoke up at a public meeting to support a St Heliers and Mission Bay road safety proposal earlier this year.

Mr Mercer said as a founding member of the Ōrākei Youth Council, he's aware of issues young people and the wider community face.

"Unfortunately, the views of younger people are often neglected, despite being those who will live with the impacts of politicians' decisions today for the longest," he said.

"Although there are initiatives across Auckland to promote the youth voice, Ōrākei is lagging far behind the rest of Auckland and it's time for that to change."

He said he will focus on engaging the youth in local issues and improving transport if elected.

"There is a big transport situation in Ōrākei. It has been lagging behind a lot in the safety people walking and cycling. It's just a lack of supporting and infrastructure for the cyclist," he said.

Mr Mercer, who studies at the University of Auckland, says he'll be able to balance politics and study.

"As a younger person, I would be able to directly provide youth perspective. I think it's important to hear from other people too, so I will support a lot of initiatives to get youth heard."

'Young people want to vote'

An Otago University study has found 60 percent of young people intend to vote in the local body elections.

Traditionally around only 35 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds vote in elections.

But the survey of more than 400 university students found many more were interested in local body politics, but wanted more information about candidates and online voting.

"Contrary to what some other research has said, young people want to vote, they want to be involved, but they don't feel as they have enough information to make an informed decision," researcher Kyle Whitfield said.

Almost 70 percent thought online or e-voting should be an option, with almost a third of those surveyed believing postal voting was not easy or straightforward.

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