Vote2020

Local rugby players will have little excuse for not being enrolled to vote in this year's election, thanks to a new initiative.

A pair of Te Kura Mana Māori o Whangaparaoa teachers, Kerrin Mato and Sarah Waititi, were concerned about a lack of māori men enrolling to vote.

They decided to take matters into their own hands, attending a training session of their local rugby club, Tihirau Victory, and pulling aside one player at a time to help them enrol.

Shocked by how many of the men were not enrolled, the pair decided to make the most of the momentum and challenged the club to nominate another team to do the same.

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The Vote Rugby Vote campaign was born.

Tihirau Victory nominated Te Teko and weeks later rugby teams from all over Bay of Plenty were taking part.

"The initial kaupapa was just to get our local rugby club enrolled to vote for [Māori Party Waiariki candidate] Rawiri Waititi," Mato said.

"Once we realised that hardly any were registered to vote, we thought imagine how many other men, in the wider Bay of Plenty, are not registered either. We were shocked at our own team, that half of them weren't registered and half of them didn't even know the importance of voting."

While the kaupapa started as a way of encouraging people to vote for the Māori Party, it has grown into a push to simply get as many people enrolled to vote as possible, regardless of who they intend to vote for.

"We had 100 per cent of our team registered so we thought let's make this a challenge. We've had seven teams so far and the momentum is still building. We've had over 10,000 views on our videos on Facebook.

The Tihirau Victory Club men's rugby team were the first to take part in the Vote Rugby Vote campaign. Photo / Supplied
The Tihirau Victory Club men's rugby team were the first to take part in the Vote Rugby Vote campaign. Photo / Supplied

"We watch that and we get excited because it's positive messaging, especially getting Māori men to vote. It has become our little hobby, just getting them to enrol and vote for whoever they want.

"It's important for them to vote because every vote counts and we need more Māori representatives. We don't want anyone to think their vote doesn't matter."

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Mount Mauganui Rugby Club members heard about the initiative and rather than wait to be nominated decided to join in of their own accord.

Club member Reuben Parkinson said he heard of the Vote Rugby Vote movement from a relative on the East Coast.

"I just thought it's such a great initiative because one of the biggest things over the years is the young generation have a real tendency not to enrol so they don't have a vote and don't have a say."

He said rugby clubs were ideally placed to promote something as important as enrolling to vote because they were often central to their community.

"It just seemed like a good way to get a group of young people together and use that opportunity to get them filling out enrolment forms. You could tell many of them hadn't enrolled previously, there wee a lot of questions on what to do, but we ended up getting three whole teams signed up which is great," Parkinson said.

Te Teko premier men's assistant coach Ariki Henry said he and head coach Sam Cameron had been talking about the importance of voting.

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E ngā kapa whutupōro!!!!!!! Vote, Rugby, Vote! Mount Maunganui Rugby Club are leading the way and have registered all of their players. Wetiweti koutou e hika mā! 1. Mount Maunganui Women’s nomainte: Te Teko Women’s 2. Mount Maunganui Development nominate: Huria 3. Mount Maunganui Premier nominate: Reporoa Kia Kaha tātou, every vote counts, make an effort. Vote, Rugby, Vote!

Posted by VOTE RUGBY VOTE on Thursday, 6 August 2020

"We had discussed the lack of male Māori and other ethnicities between those targeted ages that vote so we saw the need and the platform of using this format to get our boys to vote," Henry said.

People who enrol to vote by August 16 will receive an information pack with details about where to vote, the candidates, political party lists, and an EasyVote card to make voting faster.

Anyone enrolled after August 16 will have to cast a special vote which takes longer. Election day is September 19.

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