Howick Youth Council putting democracy in action

The Howick Youth Council hosted three local election debates in each of the Howick Local Board subdivisions. Photo supplied

Howick Youth Council hosted local election debates in the three Howick Local Board Subdivisions. JUSTIN HU, from Macleans College, reports

Anachronistic eyesores.

That’s how a lot of people might describe the seemingly never-ending cache of election hoardings which have gone up around east Auckland in recent weeks.

But, despite their unwavering repetition, they don’t do a great job of telling you anything about the candidates — and we all realise it.

Research by Auckland Council following the last local elections found that one in four people who didn’t vote said they didn’t know enough about the candidates running in their community.

That’s why the Howick Youth Council’s recent candidate forums have sought to provide clarity in the local board races; the people that could shape the future of East Auckland.

The forums covered all three subdivisions within the Howick Local Board and every candidate running was invited. Thankfully, most turned up.

As one would expect from a youth forum, questions about youth engagement were a consistent thread, but so too were countless nagging questions about transport, rates, housing and climate change. Issues affecting all east Aucklanders were debated on their own significance and were done so in a highly inquisitive and interactive manner. Candidates were encouraged to share the actions they planned to take to address each topic.

Also woven throughout every subdivision’s event was a consistent commitment to audience engagement. Audience members answered poll questions via their smartphones. The direction of the forums were guided by the audience’s opinions.

By the end of the forums, an average of 82 per cent of audience members participating live had changed their opinions about which candidates they would vote for.

Youth council member Danica Loulie-Wijtenburg, who organised the local board debates, said the event’s focus was to engage youth and the wider community with local politics.

“There are over 20,000 people under the age of 25 in the Howick Local Board area. We wanted to make sure they, as well as the rest of the community, were empowered to make informed decisions through these forums,” she said.

“Local board has got a vital part to play in providing local leadership and to advocate on our community’s behalf. So, it’s really important we get a better understanding of who we’re voting for.”

The technology-driven aspects of the forums have been so successful that other local community groups have made enquiries and shown interest in integrating interactive software into their candidate forums too.

All three of the candidate forums were live-streamed and full recordings of the events can be viewed on the Youth Council’s Facebook page.

The online news site, The Spinoff, has launched Policy Local where people can compare the policies of candidates running for Mayor, Council, Local Board and District Health Board by simply typing in your address. That’s at policylocal.nz. Auckland Council has put together a similar online tool on the Vote Auckland website where people can find out who they can vote for based on their address.

The Times has also published candidates’ statements every week, and each voting pack comes with a booklet with remarks from each candidate.

With the list of excuses to not vote well and truly run dry, and so many resources available to you without leaving your door, there’s never been a better time to exercise your democratic right to vote.

Voting opened September 20 and closes midday October 12.

  • Justin Hu is the editor of The Collegian, the official student publication of Macleans College, and is not a member of the youth council

Pakuranga subdivision Howick Local Board debate:  Te Tuhi, Pakuranga, attended by Khalyd Baloch, Garry Boles, Katrina Bungard, David Collings, Wayne Huang, Bruce Kendall, Tofik Mamedov, Dale Smith, Steve Udy, Morgan Xiao
Botany subdivision Howick Local Board debate: Ormiston Junior College, Ormiston, attended by Ashleigh Harding, Mark Johnson, Masooma Mehdi, Lance Millward, Nivedita Sharma Vij, Kharag Singh, Ajaypal Singh, Mike Turinsky, Bob Wichman, Peter Young — all of the candidates running in the Botany subdivision.
Howick subdivision Howick Local Board debate: Uxbridge Arts & Culture Centre, attended: Adele White, Barry Wood, Bo Burns, Jess Andrews, Jim Donald, John Spiller, Matthew Sheehy, Richie Barnett