Chlöe Swarbrick is no shirker. Before she fell down the rabbit hole into being a Green MP, she made a stab at the Auckland mayoralty, ran multiple businesses, worked as a journalist at a student radio station and studied law and philosophy. Now, she will be heading to Tauranga to join the arts festival's speakers line-up. Reporter Jean Bell speaks to her about critics, climate change and youth engagement.
"Good for them."
That's the three-word response Green MP Chloe Swarbrick has for critics who try to use her age, gender or other assumptions to take a swipe at her.
• Chloe Swarbrick: Why I back legalising cannabis
• Tauranga Arts Festival stars homegrown talent
• Premium - ''I've had a blast'': Tauranga Arts Festival director taking final bow
• Triple whammy deal for Tauranga Arts Festival tickets
"I have never pretended to be anything other than what I am - a young woman who is focused on changing things," the 25-year-old laughs.
As a young woman in a male-dominated environment, she said her experience mirrored that of Marilyn Waring - previously the youngest MP to enter Parliament - despite the more than 40-year gap between the two women's time in the Beehive.
Swarbrick will be talking with Waring about her 2019 autobiography recounting her extraordinary years in Parliament as part of the upcoming Tauranga Arts Festival.
"If you ask the average person what comes to mind when they think of a politician, it most definitely isn't someone like me," she says.
"I frequently find you have to work harder to be considered on the same level because there are absolutely no assumptions that work in your favour - all of the assumptions are essentially prejudice."
But Swarbrick bats away any flak, saying it reflected more about the critics than herself.
"I'm here to do the best possible job regardless of whatever assumptions people make about me, so I will stick to the facts and the evidence."
"Where other people seek to belittle and demean me on characteristics about myself that I can't change, whether that's my age or otherwise, well, good for them."
"I think it demonstrates more about them than me."
Turning to youth engagement and the climate strikes she said young people were incredibly politically aware and engaged, but largely did not engage in politics in a traditional way.
"Anyone who talks about youth apathy, which is a lazy fall-back, isn't paying attention to the youth-led movement, particularly in these climate strikes."
She said it was important for adults to listen to young people's voices.
"That sounds really simple and straightforward, but when you look at the rhetoric which has come from our so-called political leaders [about the climate strikes], that has absolutely belittled young people's leadership in organising thousands of everyday Kiwis to get out there [and march]."
"What is occurring right now is this unnecessary standoff where [young people] are literally fighting for their survival and they are being told they don't matter and they need to grow up."
She said in her view the "overwhelming" state of affairs contributed to the higher levels of ill mental health among youth.
"The least we can do is lend an ear that isn't a critical one."
She holds on to a lesson her father taught her: "Different people see different things, differently."
"You'll never progress any point of view or debate in any meaningful way unless you can empathise with the life experience that another person comes to that conversation with."
The Political Years - Tauranga Arts Festival
November 2, 10 am
Carrus Crystal Palace
Visit the Tauranga Arts Festival website for more information or to buy tickets.
Marilyn Waring talks to MP Chloe Swarbrick about her 2019 autobiography recounting her extraordinary years in Parliament – the youngest MP to ever enter Parliament (1975); the only female National MP after the 1978 election; crossing the floor on nuclear-free legislation, thus provoking PM Rob Muldoon, who had a one-seat majority, to call the ill-fated 1984 snap election.
Waring went on to crusade internationally for the economic empowerment of women, including working for the UN. In 2014 she was NZIER Economist of the Year and in 2018 won the NZ Visionary Leader Award (Deloitte Top 200 Awards). She is a Professor of Public Policy at AUT.