Cherie Howie is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

#WillSheVote? Follow lifelong non-voter to local body election polling day

Hinekia Fitzgerald has never voted in the local body elections but that's not to say the future of her city doesn't matter to her.

She's raising three of its youngest citizens.

The 33-year-old Auckland mum wants her voice to be heard, she's just not sure how to do it, and how it can make a difference.

Her challenge, and ours, as polling day approaches, is to untangle the process enough for Fitzgerald to understand what her vote is for and how to make sense of the many people asking for it.

The New Zealand Herald today launches a video-led series in which we follow one person who has never voted in the local body election to see if their mind can be changed.

Our discussions with local government officials suggested non-European renters aged under 40 were among those least likely to make their vote count.

So if Fitzgerald can be convinced, can others?

'I don't even know what I'm voting for'

Fitzgerald, who is Maori and lives in a rental home in the South Auckland suburb of Papakura, told the Herald she did not vote because she could not relate to those who wanted to represent her.

She's heard of outgoing Mayor Len Brown, but not the names of the two men who have represented her in the Manurewa-Papakura ward for the past six years.

To her, they and other candidates are faces on billboards she cannot relate to.

"Nothing will change for me. My life will remain the same and to be honest, I don't even know what I'm voting for.

"There's hardly any women, there's hardly any Maori and me as a Maori
woman ... they won't be able to relate to me in any way."

'If I vote ... people may follow'

But Fitzgerald - whose grandfather Brian Joyce is a former long-time Papakura councillor and whose aunt Hine Joyce-Tahere served a term on the Papakura Local Board - wants to know more.

The Papakura Marae Whanau Ora kaiarahi (teen parenting co-ordinator) is open to joining the roughly four in 10 Kiwis who vote in local body elections, and hopes others learn alongside her.

"If people maybe read about it, because I am really just a normal person like them, just trying to work to provide for my family so ... if maybe I start to vote people may follow.

"I think people just don't vote because they don't know why they're doing it or what it's going to do for them, because that's how I feel."

Join the journey

You can follow Fitzgerald's journey at

For all the Herald's local body election coverage go here.

Let us know what you think via social media, using the hashtag #WillSheVote?

Want to know more about the people who want your vote, and why it matters? Auckland Council has a website to help.

Live in Auckland, Wellington or Palmerston North? Massey University's research unit Design+Democracy Project developed an online tool helping voters match their values to mayoral candidates via this tool.

Fitzgerald's enrolled to vote. Are you? Find out here.

The deadline for postal voting is next Wednesday, October 5. Ballots can be hand-delivered to libraries until midday on Saturday, October 8. Results will be revealed later that day.

- NZ Herald

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