13 Oct 2019

Hours of tension before teen's election win confirmed at barn dance

3:40 pm on 13 October 2019

One of the country's youngest new councillors was at a barn dance when she found out she had been elected.

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Climate activist Sophie Handford, left, has won a seat on the Kāpiti Coast District Council. Fellow activist Molly Doyle is alongside. Photo: RNZ / John Gerritsen

Eighteen-year-old Sophie Handford has been elected to the Kāpiti Coast District Council.

The news didn't come through until just before 11pm yesterday.

She said it was a long wait - as she and her friends had gathered at 3pm to wait for results to come in.

"So we waited for hours and nothing came, we went for a walk, then decided to go to the barn dance and my whole team actually came with me down to the barn dance, there were about ten of us there."

She said she hadn't expected to win, and was very grateful to the Paekākāriki-Raumati ward for voting for her.

It was likely her stance on climate change, as an organiser for the Schools Strike 4 Climate movement, had helped her win.

"Something that we found was quite strong when talking to a lot of people was that environmental issues were things people really cared about and the impact of climate change on our coast, but also the idea of an intergenerational vision, having decisions being made now being for the future as well."

Ms Handford said many of her main goals are related to climate change, and she'd like to see a council climate change committee established.

She said she didn't fear not being taken seriously on the council, and if she ever felt unsure, would remember she had been elected, and so was backed by her community.

Ms Handford said she would like to remain involved with the Schools Strike for Climate movement, but said it was also important she step back and let younger people come through to lead.

Incumbent mayor K Gurunathan has retained his spot, and Angela Buswell, Gwynn Compton, Jackie Elliott, Janet Holborow, Rob McCann, James Cootes, Jocelyn Prvanov, Martin Halliday, and Bernie Randall round out the council table.

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