Why are young people so alienated from politics?

People aged 18-24 are the least likely age-group to vote in the upcoming local body elections according to Auckland Council.

Only 54 per cent said they intend to vote, compared to a whopping 96 per cent of those aged 65 and older.

So what is creating a generation of apathetic youth?


Victoria University Students' Association president Jonathan Gee reckons there is a lack of awareness of how much of an impact voting can have.

"People don't understand they can affect change through their votes.

"For students the main issues are being able to catch the bus to get to class, and getting sick because they live in cold and damp flats and missing classes or being unable to do assignments. Making students aware that council can do something about those clear and simple issues is the key really."

He said the transient nature of the student population meant they often felt disengaged from the city they studied in, and had a "sense of disconnectedness to the city".

More young people standing for council positions would also create more interest in local body elections, Gee said.

"It's a case of out of sight, out of mind. We need more young representation at the council table."

Massey University Students' Association president Nikita Skipper said she doesn't see anyone in local politics that inspires her to vote.

"There is nothing for me, I don't see people I can relate with.

"I'm often left feeling that the youth voice is seen as a minority voice because the majority of us don't own houses or businesses - instead we flat and study and work part-time jobs to fund ourselves. If you want us involved show that you take us seriously."

She echoed the call for more young candidates.

"There is a need for more diversity and younger people running for local body council and government. If you want engagement give us someone to engage with someone who will share our views... there is always room for change and I think that it is proving more and more."

Rodney Local Board candidate Tessa Berger, 22, is one young person who has put her hand up for election.

She said disengagement among young people was a "worldwide trend".

"Our great-grandparents saw women get the vote, and they took the right to vote extremely seriously. But over time, voting has increasingly been taken for granted, and politics has been captured by big business, leaving voters feeling helpless to make meaningful change.

"Young people feel disengaged because they aren't being best represented. The way we have branded local body politics, quite simply doesn't appeal to a younger demographic."

The Herald explains why you should care about the upcoming Local Body Elections

She said her age was her "best asset".

"If we want to inspire the next generation, we need to change the way we engage with our young people. If this is to be at all successful, it can only be led by us."

Auckland Council and Howick Local Board candidate Olivia Montgomery, 20, said a lot of her peers don't understand the local body structure.

"For example people don't know the difference between local boards and council, and what their roles are.

"They feel really disconnected from the process."

She also felt more candidate debates and exposure would generate greater interest.

"The average age of an Aucklander is 33, yet our politicians are generally a lot older than that. There's a major underepresentation of young people.

"When younger people and minorities don't vote, there is no challenge to the status quo, the same people keep getting elected and nothing changes."

First-time voters said they were unaware of the candidates in local body elections, but were concerned about issues such as public transport.

Young people have their say

Hugh Paterson, 20, said public transport was "frustrating", and that "no-one seems to be doing anything about it".

Daniel Wist, 25, said he didn't know what he gained from voting in local elections.

"They should be teaching that kind of thing in school. I've never been told or even heard about what they get up to."

Rogan Thickett said he "didn't really pay attention" to the council elections.

"I just don't think whatever they do will affect me."