Tom Kitchin in Wellington heads to Victoria University, and Susan Strongman in Auckland heads to MIT's Otara campus to capture the zeitgeist.
The morning after Winston Peters announced he would form a coalition with Labour, we headed to Ōtara, in South Auckland.
Ōtara is in the Manukau East electorate, which has been held by Labour since its formation in 1996. Almost half (45 per cent) of the electorate’s population is Pasifika. Almost half of its households are renting and nine percent of the population there report having no heating in their homes.
In 2014, Labour’s Jenny Salesa won her seat with a margin of 13,254. 65 percent of those who were enrolled voted. This election, Salesa won her seat with a margin of 12,589 votes.
In Ōtara, we approached groups of young people grabbing coffee on their way to classes at MIT, or picking up a mid-morning snack on a break from work.
Of those we spoke to, many were too shy to be interviewed, or have their photo taken. Others didn’t want to speak about the election because they hadn’t voted.
But of those who did speak to us, the biggest issue on their mind was clear: housing.
Darryl Fili, 19.
Studying automotive engineering at MIT.
Darryl didn’t vote, but says if he did, he would have voted Labour.
“It’s alright, eh? My whole family was voting for Labour.”
His reason for not voting, he says, was because he didn’t have time. Despite this, he says he followed the election with interest, reading news when it popped up on his social media - particularly while the country was waiting for Winston Peters to decide which party to form a government with.
Darryl is hopeful about housing becoming affordable and wages increasing under a Labour led government.
Piri Keenan, 26.
“I was happy with the outcome,” Piri says.
He lives out west, and gave his party vote to NZ First and his candidate vote to Labour’s Carmel Sepuloni. He says that at his work, some people were happy about the new government being led by Labour and others weren’t.
“It’s pretty divided. There’s a few people who are pretty fucked off about it, ‘cause they own their houses already. I don’t, though.”
Piri says he’s interested to see what the new government does to fix the housing crisis.
“National wasn’t doing much.”
Josephine Ngatupuna, 38.
Studying nursing at MIT.
“I’m happy that we’ve finally got a result after waiting two weeks,” Josephine says.
There needed to be change, she says, and hopefully the new government’s policies will be positive for New Zealanders needing better education and housing.
“I’m from Ōtara. I voted for Jenny Salesa and Labour. She’s awesoeme - she comes to the church.
“I’m feeling positive.”
Dakota Wikotu, 22.
Studying nursing at MIT.
“I’m just not happy about foreign buyers. Not because I’m racist. But I think it will make it easier for first home buyers if we don’t have to compete with the rest of the world,” Dakota says.
She’s happy with the outcome of the election for Labour and the Green Party.
“I voted Green and I’m happy that they’re in. I care about the environment. For me, environment is really high up in my priorities.”
Dakota is also glad that Winston Peters took his time to decide who to form a government with, and the process didn’t make her feel less engaged with politics.
“The time taken didn’t bother me, I think it’s good that he made a really informed decision and played the parties off against each other. He really made them fight for it.”
Wellington Central and Victoria University are country favourites for swinging to the left.
Wellington Central is considered to be a safe Labour seat, held by the party since the 1999 election. This election, Labour’s Grant Robertson won the electorate by nearly 10,000 votes, though the party vote was closer: only 3000 votes separated red from blue.
This year the electorate also had the country’s highest voter turnout, at 88.6 percent.
Green Party supporters turned out in their droves at Wellington university campuses - the party won by about 20 per cent in polling stations at Victoria University and Massey University's Wellington campus.
To find out what students thought about Winston’s decision, we took a trip over to Vic’s Kelburn campus.
BREA ROLTON, 19.
Marketing student Brea thinks the election process dragged on, but feels she could have been more into politics.
“It came to a point where I switched off because it was taking too long. It was so up in the air. I don’t know much about the whole system.. but it did feel like the power was in one person’s hands.”
Even though she voted for National she’s “optimistic” about the Labour-led government.
“I don’t know what it will be like in terms of Labour running [the country]. Maybe it’s on me, I wish I got more into the whole system because I was going with the crowd. On the day I didn’t know who I was going to vote for.”
She thinks mental health and wellbeing is an important issue the new government needs to deal with “head on.”
“We still have one of the largest percentages of teen [suicide in the world]. Wellington was named [one of] the best cities to live in the world which I think is amazing but there’s still underlying problems in New Zealand we need to face.”
LOISI TALIVAKADA, 18.
LAW & POLITICAL SCIENCE STUDENT
The lag between election night and Winston’s decision only made Loisi more keen on the political game.
“I was a bit more committed to it ‘cause I was quite curious to see which way Winston would go.”
She thinks that regardless of opinions on the decision, New Zealanders have to live with the outcome.
“Realistically, we wouldn’t want to give that much power to one person [Winston] but that’s just how the MMP system works. You can’t help it. I guess you have to accept it even if you didn’t vote for Labour.”
Education and housing policies are important to Loisi.
“The housing crisis is quite bad at the moment and education’s important. [Labour] have touched on those but politicians can say things it’s just a matter of fact if they can actually implement them.”
ETHAN THOMPSON, 20.
Ethan tried to ignore the media this election season.
“I found what little I was exposed to [in the media] wasn’t focused on the election, it seemed quite focused on things like the moral authority.That general attitude made me feel disillusioned.”
But that doesn’t mean Ethan’s not into politics, especially following the election.
“I think I was more switched on than ever. I was following the parties themselves rather than the media commentary. I stayed far away from politics leading up to the election. I gave myself ten days to do policy research before the election day. Since then, I’ve been very clued in about politics.”
He thinks the wait for Winston Peters was “quite reasonable. There was a build up and everyone was expecting a result but I don’t think a result was ever going to happen on the night realistically.”
But Ethan wishes Winston Peters didn’t have so much power, though he’s not surprised it happened with MMP. “Obviously Winston Peters doesn’t have all of the power but he certainly had a lot more than any other individual. I don’t have any animosity towards Winston Peters. I’m not angry, it certainly bothers me in that surely there’s a better way of having an MMP system... but in saying that, I don’t know what that looks like.”
As a Green voter, Ethan’s concerned about the confidence and supply agreement they’ve set up. “I don’t understand fully what [the agreement] means. I’m worried we won’t address environmental issues and the Green vote won’t be reflected.”
His biggest concerns are for the environment and health. “I voted most influenced on hardline environmental policies, not vague promises. There are a number of things wrong with the public health system in New Zealand. I’m hoping that someone in that government is going to advocate for people that don’t have access to parts of the health system.”
SOPHIE SMYTH, 20.
Sophie admits she doesn’t have much interest in politics and doesn’t watch TV. She found out Jacinda was PM after she opened Google.
“The latest Stuff article, that’s how I found out. I was googling a recipe and it just came up.”
She’s not the greatest Winston fan, but wasn’t angry about his influence.
“I don’t really have a lot of knowledge on him except my Dad thinks he’s funny but not the greatest option. I wasn’t mad because I did that Vote Compass thing and his party stuff wasn’t annoying like some of them were.”
Sophie voted for Labour. “It’s nice to have a change from male to female. National wasn’t the greatest. “I’m about making student life a little easier. National was kind of anti that and Labour was for it.”
TADHG CONNOLLY, 20.
PSYCHOLOGY & SOCIOLOGY STUDENT
Tadhg lives in a shared house with homeless people.Why? He was sick of people talking the talk, so he walked the walk.
“There’s a mixture of students, workers, sometimes people from night shelters, sometimes people who aren’t in shelters at all.
“The fact that your average priced house in Auckland has increased by almost half a million dollars in the last ten years is absurd. To even afford a house you need to work for 40 or 50 years.
He voted for the Greens and doesn’t think Winston’s choice was unpredictable.
“A lot of people voted for New Zealand First hoping for a change in government. If New Zealand First wants to have any place in parliament in future elections they needed to go with Labour. It was never really a question of who New Zealand First would go with, it was more what involvement the Greens would have in the coalition.”
But he still doesn’t believe Winston calling the shots was ideal.
“10 per cent of the population decided for the other 90 per cent but it is the current political system. It’s a game and that’s just how it’s played.”
Tadhg also sees mental health as a big issue.
“Everyone’s been giving the same solutions or throwing money at it which is a plaster solution to a long term problem. [A solution] comes down to connectedness we have with each other. In our society it’s easy to be disconnected [and] to only interact with people at university or work. There’s solutions there which haven’t been thought of. Different ways of living, being in each other’s presence.”
LUKA HOGERVORST, 20.
ENGLISH & HISTORY STUDENT
Luka got sick of Winston “playing god”, so he stopped caring about the government announcement.
“Winston Peters was just power trippin’, had the whole world in his hands. I was like ‘whatever, don’t really give a crap’.”
Even though he voted for National, he still thinks Jacinda is cool.
“Jacinda’s gangsta, far out, she’s mean!”
But he’s not a fan of Labour’s free tertiary education policy.
“I liked [Labour’s] idea but I also hate it because students get enough. If you stop wasting your money down in town then you have enough money to survive. [With] free tertiary education, you’re going to get every Joe Bob up here that’s just gonna be wasting their money away, not getting their qualifications, dropout, back in the workforce and be useless.”
Luka is a youth worker, working with young people who break the law or are homeless.
“A lot of my drag is to helping those charitable organisations. But for me I don’t look to the government to change things, I try and do it myself, do whatever I can in my little bubble.”
He wasn’t going to vote, but his friends convinced him otherwise.
“I didn’t want to vote [but] I ended up voting,’cause it was a mean push from the uni and my mates were kicking me.”
HILARY COMBER, 20.
INDUSTRIAL DESIGN & CHEMISTRY STUDENT
Hilary voted in this election but she doesn’t follow politics a lot.
“I did some research behind the parties at election time,” she says, “but the whole thing with Winston, I just forgot about it.”
She thinks Winston making the call was “taking out the whole point of democracy.”
She voted for National but says Labour coming to power isn’t “the end of the world”.
“[National] have been in power for nine years, I’m not that emotionally invested in it. I voted for National because I like National better. I had no idea who was the Labour leader for so long… so I thought if they’re just going to keep on changing the leader, it’s not really a stable party.”