24 Aug 2017

Young South Aucklanders unconvinced by politicians

10:00 am on 24 August 2017

General elections are like "voting for a park I'm probably never going to play in", Year 13 student PJ Gabriel says.

PJ Gabriel, Akanesi Funaki and Raerin-Blue Pairama

PJ Gabriel, Akanesi Funaki and Raerin-Blue Pairama Photo: Supplied

He once waved at former Prime Minister John Key, but the only MP he had met was his local one, Labour's Aupito William Sio.

Four Year 13 students at Māngere College, all first-time voters, said housing and jobs were what they were most worried about ahead of the election on 23 September.

The Electoral Commission visited their school recently, and all four had enrolled to vote, although one - Raerin-Blue Pairama - was leaning towards not voting.

No party had yet convinced her enough to do it, she said.

She was concerned about housing and the level of homelessness in the community.

"If you walk down the main street in town, it's like every second shop has at least three or four homeless people.

"[They're] cold, especially when it's raining and especially because winter this year has been cold as, freezing."

Fellow student Akanesi Funaki shared her concern.

"There was a homeless man who died in front of our church branch in Manurewa and that was sad. So our housing crisis would be one big thing that [the government] could change."

PJ Gabriel worried about the cost of living and paying too much tax.

"Even just starting off work we're paying higher taxes. They expect to raise prices in petrol and living costs and stuff like that, but even when they raise the pay, everything rises."

Ilham Akhlaqi said she was also concerned about taxes, as well as workers' rights.

Ilham Akhlaqi

Ilham Akhlaqi Photo: Supplied

"It's more to do with unions and the workforce, and as a Year 13 [student] even at school I do part-time work and I think the tax is pretty high for me as well."

The students also questioned whether politicians really cared about young people.

"Some, I reckon, just sit in their office. For me, because I live out west, I receive letters from MPs out there and stuff like that. But to me it's just a letter that they do to mostly anyone - just a copy-paste thing," Mr Gabriel said.

"I don't think they really care, just as long as they get the role."

All but one of the students - as well as their families - strongly supported Labour, and even though they would have been at primary school when Helen Clark was prime minister, they knew who she was and spoke highly of her.

Ms Akhlaqi came from Afghanistan as a refugee at the age of six with her sister and her cousin. She said her mother was not highly educated and - along with her partner - relied on her daughter to tell them who to vote for.

"As a refugee I came here and I had a lot of support with the Labour Party and Helen Clark. And I think Labour is the best choice as well because [of its stance on] low-income families, and a lot of support I think."

Mr Gabriel said he would vote Labour but still wasn't completely convinced voting made a difference.

"Voting is just voting for a park I'm never going to play in. Just give us a reason - a valid reason - that affects us individually to vote for them."

Ms Akhlaqi had a challenge for the winners on election night.

"I don't want to just grow up being an adult and just knowing that these problems are still there since I was an 18-year-old girl. I want them to actually make a better future for the younger generations like us."

People can enrol up until 22 September - the day before the election - but will have to cast a special vote.

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