First-time voters in Tauranga have their eyes to the future when it comes to casting their votes in the local body elections.

Despite voter-turnout for youths declining in the past few elections, four Otumoetai College students are keen to have their say come October.

Receiving their voting papers in the mail this week, Adam Harrington, McKenna Armstrong, Damien Potts and Marnie Hunter, all 18, have been researching and brushing up on the candidates running for Tauranga City Council.

"If you don't vote, you can't have a say and you can't complain," McKenna said.

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"The amount of non-participation is why it's important for us to vote. We have a different and unique voting perspective," Adam said.

A fear of Tauranga turning into a mini-Auckland was propelling Adam to vote.

"We're predicted to have quite a few issues with so many people moving to Tauranga, so it's important to make sure who we vote for now sets up our city for the future so we can keep it beautiful the way it is," Adam said.

He said he valued having a growing city but without the big-city feel to it and not having to wait in traffic or battle to find a parking spot.

Marnie said the fast-paced growth of Tauranga was getting more noticeable.
"What's their [the council and mayor's] plan for that and how can we sustain the feel we have in Tauranga?"

McKenna said Tauranga's charm was the laid-back beach life and if beaches and roads became too clogged that would be lost.

Though their fellow student Carson Luke, 17, was not able to vote he was still keeping a keen eye on the election.

"This is going to be our city for longer than anyone who can vote, so it's pretty important that we have a say in the direction of it," he said.

Carson wanted to see improved public transport, to cope with the rising population.
But getting young people to engage and vote was something that needed to be worked on, the students agreed.

Candidates should be using more social media to connect and getting their faces out there - and not just by putting up billboards around the city, they said.

Realistically, the candidates needed to actively chase young voters and encourage them to ditch the apathy and have their say.

Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell said every year the electoral office came to speak to the students in an assembly.

They were told how to enrol, the importance of their vote and were helped to fill out electoral roll paperwork.