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Waihī College pupil Viatolose Taulafo surveyed her peers ahead of the local elections. Photo: KELLEY TANTAU

Teens have ‘no clue’ about council

Young people know who Jacinda Ardern is – they even follow her on social media – but when it comes to district councillors, a high schooler has discovered that more often than not, minds go blank.
That’s just one thing Waihī College student Viatolose Taulafo has found after surveying her peers ahead of the local body elections.
On October 8, people will take to the voting booths to elect new mayors and councillors across the Thames Valley, and Viatolose wanted to see how many voters were of the young demographic.
She sent out a survey to her fellow Year 13s at Waihī College, and of the 25 responses, most came back saying they had “no idea” who was a councillor, or what the district council was.
“Wouldn’t have a clue,” one said, while another stated: “I don’t know who or what the district council do”.
Viatolose also asked the students who were eligible to vote if they were planning to partake in this year’s elections.
“Maybe,” was a response. “Depends how much information I’m given,” said another. “Not district elections, but national elections,” said one more.
Viatolose was not surprised at the answers.
“I understand where they’re coming from. If you just turn 18, you don’t really think about voting,” she said.
“I know more about [Jacinda Ardern] than I do about our own councillors. I follow her on Instagram and I see all my friends following her, too, so they definitely know who she is.
“So, I think we need to have more knowledge on the district council.”
The survey came to mind after Viatolose’s teacher Carolyn Graveson suggested she take her interest in communications to Hauraki district councillor and Waihī ward chair Anne Marie Spicer.
Cr Spicer took Viatolose through the council offices in Paeroa, where she learned more about the communication aspect with staff. It inspired her to conduct a survey to see how interested the youth was in local politics.
“I also wanted to know what they knew about the district council, because that’s not really known enough at this school,” she said.
“I thought if I got their point of view on the district council, I could get the council to come in and talk about what they do.
“We are the next generation, and the things that are happening now in this world, with Covid and climate change… that’s [up to] us.”
Viatolose will turn 18 just in the nick of time to vote before midday on October 8. She encouraged other eligible young people to do the same.
“I’ve learned that the younger people just don’t feel like they’re being listened to, and we need to do something about that.”