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Left: Tyler Groenewald and her MP James McDowall. Right: Anna Tukuitoga with Coromandel MP Scott Simpson Photos: SUPPLIED

Youth MPs put stamp on Parliament

Two Youth MPs hailing from the Thames Valley had the same word to describe the General Debate they took part in at Parliament: “terrifying”.
Thames High School student Tyler Groenewald, 17, and Hauraki Plains College student Anna Tukuitoga, 18, were selected as representatives for the 10th New Zealand Youth Parliament, running from March 1 to August 31.
At a two-day event at the Beehive in July, the pair had to present a three-minute speech in the same debating chambers as those used by elected politicians.
“I was absolutely terrified,” Tyler told The Profile.
“It was the most overwhelming feeling ever but it was such a good environment. I’ve always done speeches and debating, but [Youth Parliament] was the biggest scale I’ve done it on,” she said.
“It was so surreal.”
Youth Parliament is held every three years, and is an opportunity for young New Zealanders to learn first-hand about democracy and decision-making.
This year, the 139 participants took part in mock debates, attended caucus sessions, sat in on select committees, and asked oral questions of ministers.
Anna, an award-winning country singer from Paeroa, was the Youth MP for National’s Coromandel MP Scott Simpson.
“Being a performer, I went in and thought I would be all good and represent my family and culture and do it justice… and then I got up, and I was shaking,” Anna said of her debate experience.
“It was so terrifying… and it was so annoying because it was a pretty good speech and I didn’t deliver it the way I wanted to.”

Anna didn’t know what she was getting herself into when she submitted her application to Mr Simpson, but “somehow, he liked mine”, she said.
“I think we’re lucky in this society now because we have a lot to talk about.
“I don’t know a lot about politics, but I think I’m going to get into it more.”
Tyler was the Youth MP for Waikato Act List MP James McDowall, who is also Act’s spokesperson for immigration – a role that Tyler felt was important to learn more about due to her family’s arrival to New Zealand from South Africa in 2006.
“I was in the canteen line at school when I got the phone call [for Youth Parliament] and I started crying straight away. I didn’t believe it at first; it didn’t quite set in until I was there,” she said.
Tyler has lived in Thames for three years and is planning to pursue a double degree in commerce and education at the University of Waikato.
She said her passion for politics was ignited last year, after getting the “opportunity to take it seriously”.
“I’ve always been politically inclined but I never really knew what you could do with it. Being an MP seems so far out of reach… but we want to show people that this is a path that can happen.
“Getting into government is still difficult, but there are options from a young age.”
Both Tyler and Anna encouraged more young people to get involved with Young Parliament when it comes around again in 2025.
“Trying never hurt anyone, and it’s so worth the anxiety,” Tyler said.
“At the end of the day, it is only 500 words to get in, 500 words to speak, and you have the most amazing experience of your life.”