Ron Mark was seeking a youth representative who would one day use their public profile to "make people's lives better" -- so Hope Sexton was the perfect choice.

The Wairarapa List MP and New Zealand First deputy leader has selected Hope, of Featherston, to represent his party at the 2016 Youth Parliament.

The Youth Parliament initiative, funded by the Ministry of Youth Development, allows young people to experience the workings of the New Zealand Parliament by debating legislation, attending select committees, and taking part in "robust discussion" in the Parliamentary debating chamber.

Each local and list MP selects a youth representative, and provides them with mentoring and guidance.


Mr Mark said he considered both Hope and Chanel College Head Boy Andrew Miles for the role.

While both fit the criteria, Hope -- daughter of former South Wairarapa district councillor Porky Sexton -- had the edge, thanks to her experience of local government, extensive community involvement and sense of social justice.

"Hope has a strong sense of community involvement -- it's in her DNA," Mr Mark said.

"There are people who go into public office for the sake of having influence, or to earn lots of money, and there are those who do it to make others' lives better. Hope is the latter person."

Hope, 18, said she had "grown up around local government", but had no previous aspirations of entering politics.

But she gave the idea some thought after she received a call from one of Mr Mark's staff.

"She asked if I knew anyone who might be interested in Youth Parliament," Hope said.

"I thought about it -- and then decided I'd put an application in myself.


"I had nothing to lose."

And Hope had an impressive CV to include -- having served on the Wairarapa Youth Council, been the youth representative on South Wairarapa District Council's Community Safety and Resilience Committee, and member of the Featherston Community Patrol.

Currently, she is youth leader for Rangatahi to Rangatira Featherston, which has completed several major projects, such as the graffiti boards in the Featherston skate park, various Youth Week events and a herb garden at Cherry Tree Park.

"Hope is quite unique, as she's been engaged with the community at the sharp edge from a young age," Mr Mark said.

"She has experience in dealing with adults, and having to work to create viable solutions.

"Some young people think they know what's out there from what they learned in school, but she's seen it on the ground."


He said Youth MPs needed to have good communication skills, have an opinion and not be afraid to express it, and have "courage in their convictions".

"It does get quite robust [in Parliament], and it's not everyone's cup for tea -- but I'm confident Hope will grow from the experience."

Hope said she looked forward to debating issues such as the transition between secondary school and work, the education system, and transport in Wairarapa.

She said her Dad was proud of her- but warned her "not to wear her gumboots in Parliament".

Hope discusses life as a public figure in her Youth and Truth column, on page 16.