Democracy is power to the people - or is it?

By Isabella Lenihan-Ikin

Democracy means "to rule by the people". Is that what we practise in New Zealand or are we jeopardising our country and people by breaching the true meaning of the word?

It's hard to believe that we are a democratic country when issues facing our society are being ignored by politicians, even though they have been recognised by the public as matters they want resolved.

Two that stand out and that are perpetually being worsened are the state of our supposedly "clean, green" environment and the deprivation some New Zealand families, especially the children of those families, are living in.

If democracy means "ruling by the people" why isn't the Government responding to the 270,000 children who are living in poor conditions, with more still being impoverished by the day?

Unfortunately children in New Zealand can not vote or influence the government over such things as they are under the legal voting age of 18.

This, too, exposes the myth of New Zealand's democratic status since not every citizen is legally able to express their opinion and potentially influence parliamentary decisions.

There are groups working on behalf of powerless children in an effort to reduce the inequality gap.

But because the concerns are raised by people who aren't themselves necessarily from deprived circumstances, the potent and highly important messages are not being conveyed.

And they are definitely not being listened to in Parliament.

The clean, green image New Zealand portrays itself as having is starting to wear thin and in fact is being proved to not be reality.

The Government is not recognising the urgency of committing to several major environmental initiatives that would revolutionise the attitudes of New Zealanders to the environment.

These initiatives would also enhance overseas perceptions of our clean, green country.

In 2010 anti-mining campaigners drove home the importance of protecting and maintaining New Zealand's natural environment.

In Auckland 40,000 people marched up Queen St, while many others elsewhere New Zealand did the same: their message - to tell the Government that mining in National Parks was a disgraceful, ignorant and blatantly stupid notion.

The Government continued to ignore the voice of the people. However, it finally put aside its mining proposal, much to the relief of the people of New Zealand.

But has the Government really dropped the idea or might mining in Schedule Four protected areas become one of its election policies?

What does this show the Government once again doing?

It is another example of ignoring the opinions of the people, ignoring the sensitivities of Mother Nature and our supposedly pristine environment and, most importantly, ignoring the system of government that we supposedly practice - democracy.

In order for our democratic status to be perpetuated we must be more inclusive and tolerant of the opinions of our society and people.

The meaning of the word democracy may be misinterpreted by the Government but, as we are people of a democratic nation, we must be clear about its significance, as we have the legal right and obligation to rule our nation.

In order for our opinions to be responded to we must have a system that faithfully follows the meaning of democracy and allows the people to rule.

Isabella Lenihan-Ikin, Year 10, Western Springs College

- NZ Herald

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