If elected, Christopher James would be one of the youngest councillors in Stratford, but that won't stop the 22-year-old from standing.

"Experience doesn't just come through age. I have been actively involved in local politics since my early teen years and know the system pretty well now."

Christopher ran his own sweet shop, Prospero's, in Stratford.

"I have run a business, and also seen it fail. That is actually a positive as I have learned from the experience."


Stratford needs more than just years of experience from councillors, he says.

"I think we have a little bit too much of that age-based experience around the table. I think any incumbents who stand for re-election will retain their seats, but I think voters need to look at the longevity of Council and ensure new blood comes through as well."

Christopher says he expects to spend much of the first few months listening and learning if elected, but also hopes to make some changes.

"I don't think Council's policies all align with climate change, I would like to see that addressed. I would also like Council meetings to be livestreamed, which helps more people become actively engaged. Not just young people, but older residents who can't always get out to a meeting."

His youth isn't the only thing that sets him apart from many of the other candidates.

"Not only would I be the youngest, I believe I would be the first openly gay person to be elected in Stratford."

Being part of the LGBTQI+ community is one of Christopher's motivations for standing.

"That and mental health would be the two reasons I am doing this."


Christopher is open about his own struggles with mental health.

"I tried to take my own life earlier this year, and spent a week or so in Te Puna Waiora afterwards. I have lost friends to suicide over the years and believe it is an issue we all need to discuss. My own journey is ongoing, but managed thanks to good support, medication and our health community and professionals."

Christopher says through his conversations with members of the LGBTQI+ community he knows not everyone feels safe in the town.

"I have certainly experienced some uncomfortable moments myself. At least once a week I will get called a fag, or be at the receiving end of some other abuse as I simply go about my business in town. I think Stratford is the best place in the world, but it can be better."

■ Are you standing for Council this year? Let us know - call 06 969 4024 or email: ilona.hanne@nzme.co.nz

■ Where to get help:
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633
• Kidsline: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
• Whatsup: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)
• Depression helpline: 0800 111 757 (available 24/7)
• Rainbow Youth: (09) 376 4155
• Samaritans 0800 726 666
• If it is an emergency and you feel like you or someone else is at risk, call 111.