Vote for kids, vote for dolphins, vote for something - just vote.

This week I've been impressed by the launch of a second initiative asking for New Zealand voters to think about how they vote.

The Tick 4 Kids collective joins Inside Child Poverty documentary maker Bryan Bruce with a push to make children the central issue for this year's election.

TV news coverage of the Tick 4 Kids launch showed a primary school child answering the question of whether he'd vote when he was old enough with a resounding: "Yes, of course I'll vote."


But so many people didn't vote last general election. This doesn't make sense to me, as I've always been politically motivated and remember being excited that I turned 18 one week before my first chance to vote in the 1990 election.

At the last election in 2011, there was a turnout of just less than 75 per cent - the lowest official level since 1978, although if the errors in that year's electoral roll are removed, you'd have to go back to 1887 for a lower voter turnout.

That means last election basically one in four people didn't vote, with nearly half of 18-24-year-olds choosing not to vote.

I guess that, for some people, a single vote seems a bit irrelevant but clearly collectively these missing votes make a difference. Perhaps for young Whanganui parents, these two campaigns around children will provide additional motivation to vote.

Tick 4 Kids includes many organisations like Plunket, National Council of Women, Brainwave Trust and UNICEF, and seeks to engage politicians in a bi-partisan approach to resolving New Zealand's abysmal child health, abuse and poverty statistics.

Bruce is driving a similar effort to ask all candidates their position on 10 proposals that he sees as vital to improved outcomes for Kiwi kids after researching other countries' successes with reducing child poverty and harm:

1. Warrants of fitness for rental housing

2. Increasing paid parental leave to six months


3. Free health meals in schools

4. More health nurses and doctors in schools

5. Free medical care for under-18s

6. Return to state-ownership, not-for-profit electricity

7. Introducing a living wage

8. Removing gst on basic food

9. Creating state loans for affordable housing

10. Taking part in cross-party talks on child poverty.

I know where I stand on these critical issues and know how I'll be voting.

Interestingly, Bruce is taking it further than simply voting for the party that best reflects your values around these fundamentals for a healthy society where children are put first - he is strongly advocating strategic voting.

Strategic voting is how the Epsom electorate voted in Act's John Banks last election after Prime Minister John Key implied over the infamous "cup of tea" that National Party supporters in Epsom should vote for the Act Party electorate candidate instead.

This meant Act didn't have to pass the 5 per cent threshold to get into power. The rules are that if you win one electorate seat, you get to bring in other list candidates even if you poll under the 5 per cent cut-off.

This has been disparagingly called coat-tailing and the Internet-Mana Party is currently being criticised for their banding together to increase the chances of getting in via Hone Harawira's possible electorate win. It is also the question mark hanging over Colin Craig's Conservative Party - will there be another deal done by National, with the Nats standing aside to let the Conservatives in as it may benefit them in the numbers game at the end.

The only conservative approach I'm keen on relates to our threatened Maui's dolphins - only 55 left in the world. And it's a reason to vote, too.

Less than a week after the International Whaling Commission criticised New Zealand's approach to protecting the world's rarest dolphins, the National Government has opened up 3000 kilometres of a marine mammal sanctuary to oil and gas exploration.

Regardless of your views on continued investment in carbon fuels in the face of climate change (I'm no fan), this sanctuary is home to Maui's dolphin. A precautionary approach is needed - avoiding extinction has to be top priority.

Nicola Young is a former Department of Conservation manager who now works for global consultancy AECOM. Educated at Wanganui Girls' College, she has a science degree and is the mother of two boys.