30 Jun 2017

Social media star to recruit rangatahi voters

2:14 pm on 30 June 2017

Social media star William Waiirua has been enlisted to get young Māori voters to the polling booths.

Māori between the ages of 18 and 29 have the lowest voter turn-out in the country and a new initiative hopes to change that for the upcoming election.

William Waiirua.

William Waiirua has more than 26,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

The initiative, For Future's Sake, is targeting young Māori voters. Last year's Budget allocated $5 million to increase awareness and participation for rangatahi.

The programme's aim is to get them to enrol and more importantly vote - and they are heading to where rangatahi spend most of their time to do it.

Māori social media star William Cribb, more commonly known as William Waiirua, has more than 26,000 followers on Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat.

He said he hoped his wairua, or social media powers, would help lift voter turn-out for young Māori.

"I'm in the same boat, I'm a bit lazy to get out there and my parents still have to drag me to get there and vote.

"It's just about being able to get that motivation to get out there and do it."

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell said it was an initiative that spoke to young Māori.

"It is on the basis of that young group of people who haven't voted to engage them in a way that is in their language and that's why having William Waiirua here is important because he is somebody that everybody identifies with."

Only 55 percent of Māori aged 18 to 29 voted in the last election.

Maori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell speaking at the For Future’s Sake event.

Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell speaking at the #ffsvote event. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

One of those people was Kateriina Selwyn, 24, who said it was difficult for Māori to access the information they needed.

"The only reason why I voted was because they had one thing at the university and that is what sparked me to go, OK, I need to vote," she said.

"But had that not happened there wasn't really much advertising at all on why it is so important to vote or what each party's strategy is."

One young Māori who didn't vote was Marino Flavell, who said he just didn't have the motivation.

"I don't take interest in political stuff - I don't know enough about it and I don't dedicate enough time to learning about what goes on in the political world."

Danielle Gibson, a young wahine who did vote in the last election, said using social media to target young Māori was the right move.

"Most young people are on social media, everyone has a Facebook account or an Instagram account... it's more appealing to young people."

She said newspapers and leaflets were better suited to the older generation.

The programme will be evaluated after the election and its findings used for the next election in 2020.

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