9 Dec 2013

Maori Party candidate aims at younger voters

7:17 am on 9 December 2013

The new Maori Party candidate for Te Tai Hauauru says he will be campaigning hard to reach out to rangatahi and get more people under the age of 40 into the polling booths.

Chris McKenzie of Ngati Raukawa descent was selected by the party at a hui in Whanganui on Sunday to replace the electorate's MP Tariana Turia when she retires next year.

Chris McKenzie.

Chris McKenzie. Photo: MAORI PARTY

Mr McKenzie says if the Maori Party fails to connect with the relatively youthful Maori population and doesn't represent a rangatahi voice in parliament it really has no place in government.

He says New Zealand is at a crisis of democracy where more and more young and Maori people are choosing not to vote.

Mr McKenzie says even though the Maori Party had a groundswell of support when it first started nearly 10 years ago, if it doesn't turn its focus to the under 40-year-olds, and the people who are not voting, then it is difficult for it to say it has a proper mandate in Parliament.

The former Ngati Raukawa Treaty negotiator says rangatahi (young people) will be a clear priority for his campaign in the lead up to the next general election.

The 44-year-old is also in charge of the party's social media campaign which he says is critical to engaging and encouraging younger people to go to the polls on election day.

Mr McKenzie has worked in Mrs Turia's office and is described by the Maori Party as a political strategist with experience in senior management, small business governance and iwi leadership. Besides his work with Ngati Raukawa, he has been a teacher at Tokoroa High School.

Mrs Turia says she fully endorses Chris McKenzie representing her seat at the next election because he is a wonderful role model to young Maori and he is well liked by both young and old in his Tokoroa community.

She says Mr McKenzie has continued his educational journey, recently gaining his MBA. He is fluent in Te Reo Maori, unlike her, she says, and has an excellent knowledge of tikanga Maori.

The Maori electorate extends from Kawhia in the north to Grenada North in the Wellington region, and includes the cities of New Plymouth, Whanganui, Palmerston North and Porirua. Mrs Turia has held the seat since 2002.