26 Sep 2017

Young members of NZ political parties give us their election hot takes

10:27 am on 26 September 2017

They cheered and drank at SkyCity. They cried in Ngongotaha and mourned at St Matthews church.


Chlöe Swarbrick and her team follow election night results at Green Party HQ.

Chlöe Swarbrick and her team follow election night results at Green Party HQ. Photo: Supplied

Youth wing members of political parties spent Saturday night in the thick of election drama, surrounded by English, Ardern and Flavell.

Now they’re looking ahead with a mixture of optimism and fear.

At National Party HQ at SkyCity in Auckland, Stefan Sunde had none of the latter.

The Young Nats president is chuffed there wasn’t the youthquake, spurred by Jacinda-mania, that some pundits predicted.

“We haven’t seen the details of the votes yet, but it’s hard to conclude that young people swung away from National in great numbers. If anything, more are supportive of the direction the party is taking the country in,” he says.

“Young people don’t want to grow up in a country where the kitty has all been spent and there’s a big debt burden on them. These are the good times.”

The good times could be ended by New Zealand First leader and kingmaker Winston Peters in a few weeks, but he’s not worried.

“The vote of confidence National got speaks for itself.”

When asked what he’s most looking forward to under a fourth term National government, he says, “Positive action on social investment, supporting our most vulnerable and increased action on the environment”.

On Saturday night, Stefan tried his best not to look at the television until about 10pm, when the numbers started solidifying. “We were really, really excited. We didn’t expect about the 46 percent mark.”

Stefan Sunde (bottom row, second from left) and Young Nats.

Stefan Sunde (bottom row, second from left) and Young Nats. Photo: Supplied

It was a far different night for Māori Party member, Tasha Hohaia. “It was about 8pm when the tears started rolling.”

Tasha, who also stood as a candidate in Manurewa, says the wiping of her party from Parliament is a depressing awakening.

“I don’t think many Māori realise the decision they’ve made with their vote, and not having an independent voice in Parliament. I think a lot of Māori have lost hope in themselves,” she says.

“Some of us don’t believe in our own traditional ways and values, but rather have more hope in the values of a Pākehā system.”

Tasha fears for the next three years. She says the biggest issue for young Māori will be retaining their culture, something she believes the Māori Party has always done with strength.

“Of course, there are issues around housing and health and education and youth suicide, but when you know who you are and have a collective identity that isn’t crushed by colonisation, you can get through those things together with a holistic approach - that is what Māori do.”

On Saturday night, young Greens member Yasmin Prendergast was at party HQ at St Matthew’s church in Auckland. The party ended the night just short of six percent.

“A lot of people were disappointed. It was a hard night,” she says.

“We all knew it was coming, but we were still holding out with a little hope that we’d do better than some of the polls were saying.”

Yasmin says she knows a lot of people who took the election result personally. “It was as if it was a vote against those of us who are homeless, vulnerable or struggling with mental health.”

“We take it to heart. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say there will be people who will die because of this result. National won’t put in the measures that are necessary to reduce homelessness and child poverty, or increase mental health spending to the point where we’re going to reduce our suicide rate. The night was very much a mourning for those people.”

Nevertheless, she says there were significant positives from the night, including Chlöe Swarbrick becoming the country’s youngest MP in 42 years, and Golriz Ghahraman reaching the verge of becoming New Zealand’s first refugee MP.

“There was definitely a lot of people saying, ‘OK, where do we go from here?’ This is when the Greens are at our strongest and rise up. The fight is nowhere near over.”

Young Labour’s president, Matt van Wijk, says the mood in the red camp is similar. He was at Labour HQ in Aotea Square.

“We’re trying to look at the positives. The party’s grown and increased its votes from the last election,” he says.

“We have seen a shift. It hasn’t been as seismic as some people predicted or hoped for, but it’s not over yet.”

He still holds out hope for Winston to turn Labour’s way. “But regardless of what happens, we will still have an opportunity to push for things like better housing, a better health system and environment.”

Matt urges young people who reacted strongly to the election to do something about it. “Young people don’t just have to be involved in democracy once every few years by voting. We can be involved in politics and political parties all year round.”

Robert Gore became involved in New Zealand First about two years ago. “A mutual friend of mine who was interested in economic development got in touch with the party. I got to know the party’s values and the vision NZ First, as a movement, represents.”

He’s now chairman of the youth wing. “The group we have here now is like a family.”

In terms of the most important values he thinks NZ First would bring to a future Government, he says, “common sense”.

“We have principles. We have values. We’ve never sacrificed those. We’re a people’s movement. It’s in our name. We put people and New Zealand First.”

For him, Saturday night was one of celebration. The results weren’t everything the party wanted, he says, but it finished in a strong position.

When asked who he thinks party leader Winston Peters will side, and which direction he wants the party to go in, he says, “no comment”.