With the election looming, local secondary school students have been teeing up their political knowledge.
John Paul College Year 13 student, Alex Norton, 18, organised a panel on Wednesday with an open invitation to all local candidates to help raise political awareness among his peers.
"It only comes around every three years so I thought this was a great opportunity."
Local candidates who attended were Richard Gillies (Green Party), Fletcher Tabuteau (NZ First), Wendy Biddle (Maori Party) and National's Todd McClay. Coromandel National MP Scott Simpson was also there.
Alex has been interested in politics since Year 10 but said it hadn't matured until this year.
"People my age are not really aware what's going on in politics so it's important we don't vote for a party just because our parents do, because then it's just a wasted vote," he said.
Alex feels it's important for young voters to realise they have a responsibility.
"Everyone has the right to vote and we should really emphasise that."
Rotorua Boys' High School ran a similar event where Maori Party Waiariki candidate Te Ururoa Flavell, Labour's Ben Sandford and Mr McClay ran separate workshops with students.
Rotorua Boys' High School principal Chris Grinter said this was well received by the students.
"I thought this was a really good exercise and a great way to highlight election matters for the 18-year-olds in our school who traditionally are not known as a particularly active voting group."
Years 9 and 10 students from Western Heights High School have also been learning about the election, as well as participating in the nationally run mock election for youth.
Western Heights High School's head of social sciences, Nathan Ward thought it was important for students to be informed of politics and be able to make their own decisions.
"We've had some students who have really taken to it and jumped on board.
"They've learned how to make an informed decision and how to base who they vote for off their own values."