Social media key to get youth vote

By Alexandra Newlove

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Brad Olsen.
Brad Olsen.

Cut the jargon and get social media savvy if you want to engage youth, is the advice to council candidates from a young Whangarei leader.

Nineteen-year-old Brad Olsen, a 2016 Queen's Young Leader Award recipient, said the council's role was to "futureproof" cities and young people had to live with decisions the longest.

But most youth saw councils as irrelevant and were disconnected from the candidate pool, he said.

"Younger people often don't pay rates directly, so don't see the direct implications of local government," Mr Olsen said.

"If the water is coming out of the tap, the rubbish picked up, and the roads aren't too bad, there's the attitude that everything is fine."

He advised candidates trying to capture the youth vote to head out and meet young people - in person at the markets or a concert, or virtually, via social media.

"But you look at politicians and they'll put a whole press release on Facebook.

The entire point of Facebook is that you don't read huge blocks of texts, so also go with photos, or videos."

The other key was cutting the politician-style jargon.

"So we talk about growth a lot, but what is it that people actually see in the end?" asked Mr Olsen.

"Is it higher wages, more jobs, better work, does it mean they will put their kids through school more easily, or be able to take a holiday?"

When rolls closed for October's local government elections on August 12, just 69 per cent of Whangarei residents aged 18 to 24 were enrolled to vote.

In the Far North, 61 per cent of youth were enrolled, and 64 per cent in Kaipara.

Meanwhile, more than 90 per cent of those over 50 were enrolled across the three council areas, although past elections indicated less than half of enrolled voters would actually cast a vote.

Mr Olsen, who is in Wellington studying towards degrees in political science, international relations, economics and public policy, was in Whangarei this week visiting schools and family.

He recently returned from meeting the Queen, having been recognised as one of 60 outstanding young leaders from around the Commonwealth.

- If you aren't enrolled to vote, you can still vote in the postal ballot closing October 8 by casting a special vote. Contact your district council for voting papers.

- Northern Advocate

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