Young candidate reveals his aims

By John Cousins

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Breaking down the apathy of young people towards voting in council elections is the herculean task facing Matt Cowley.

The 29-year-old policy analyst is the first new face to announce his intention to run for a seat on Tauranga City Council.

He might not be old but he intends to be whacky and wise in trying to turn around the attitudes of his generation to elections.

Getting in early, nearly five months before voting papers were mailed out, meant a long campaign to develop a groundswell in which he hoped young people would became curious about participating in the democratic process.

"Young people are far more powerful than they would ever imagine. If I can invoke that curiosity, then I would have considered myself successful. A nice consolation prize would be to be voted on to the council."

The way young people interacted with their world meant that many were more interested in what was happening overseas than in their own neighbourhoods.

Mr Cowley intends to make big use of social media such as Facebook, along with taking a light-hearted tone to the traditional roadside election signs. "The more fun we have, the better."

His bottom line was that it was not a true democracy until all sectors of society were represented around the council table.

He admits his job with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council could be a bit of a hurdle in the minds of some voters.

"Being tarnished with the bureaucratic brush is something I will have to overcome."

The Waikato University graduate, who hails from Taranaki, is a senior policy analyst who also manages the council's regional infrastructure fund.

However, his close links with Tauranga's young professionals meant he was in daily contact with young entrepreneurs.

It was this aspect of his life that has made him aware that Tauranga needed to be the most liveable city in New Zealand, a place of opportunity and innovation. A lot of young professionals were leaving Tauranga because there was nothing to keep them here, he said.

Mr Cowley was concerned the council was spending too much time waiting for the global downturn to finish.

The former member of the Papamoa Surf Life Saving Club's board of directors will be standing for one of the council's six at-large seats.


 

- Bay of Plenty Times

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