Youth Voters Debate powered with passion and pizza

Young voters had a chance to hear the party policies that affect them most in a lively debate hosted by the University with TVNZ at the Fale.

Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick demonstrates her Covid-19 Level 2 selfie technique.
Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick demonstrates her Covid-19 Level 2 selfie technique. All photos: Elise Manahan

There was plenty of political passion at the 1News Youth Voters Debate held at the Fale Pasifika on the evening of 28 September.

The livestreaming ran from 7.30pm until 8.30pm but the crowd had been in place from 6pm, and were fuelled with pizza, orange juice and the results of a 1News Colmar Brunton political poll an hour earlier.

It’s the second time the one-hour live debate has been held in partnership with TVNZ, following on from the debate held ahead of the 2017 election. Also involved in organising the event were the Faculty of Arts (Politics and International Relations) and the Auckland University Students' Association (AUSA).

While Covid-19 meant limited numbers were allowed in the Fale due to the social distancing requirements of Level 2, the guests were selected to ensure a fair mix of supporters from across the political divide. As well as members of the AUSA and political clubs on campus, there were interest groups such as the Equal Justice Project and students from two Auckland schools, Massey High School and McAuley High.

The five young politicians were Robert Griffith, Dunedin’s candidate for NZ First, East Coast Labour List MP Kiri Allan, ACT’s candidate for Wellington Central, Brooke van Velden, National MP for Pakuranga, Simeon Brown, and Greens List MP Chlöe Swarbrick, standing as a candidate in Auckland Central.

Host Jack Tame was the chief wrangler at the top tables and TVNZ political reporter Maiki Sherman roved the room, plucking out students to gauge their concerns on subjects such as debt, housing affordability and the environment. She also presented data drawn from Vote Compass, an online tool that's been developed with University of Auckland academics political scientist Associate Professor Jennifer Lees-Marshment and Dr Danny Osborne from Psychology.

That data showed that young people's biggest concerns, in order, were the economy, the environment and Covid-19 management.  

Jack Tame posed what he called "curly questions" to each of the candidates as well as giving them the chance to explain what each of their parties would do to solve issues such as unemployment, fiscal debt, greenhouse gas emissions, Treaty of Waitangi commitments, tax and student loan schemes.

Jennifer Lees-Marshment described the debate as inspiring.

"It was great to see the passion for important issues and engaged debate from all the candidates offering their different positions."

Just 68 percent of eligible people under the age of 30 voted in the 2017 election.

Law and Global Studies student Tabby Al-Jebouri was asked by Maiki Sherman what can be done to rectify that and get people voting.

"Voting matters," Tabby said. "If you're unhappy about something you can vote to contribute to change, if not for your sake think of the most vulnerable person you know and vote for their best interests."

You can watch the full debate on YouTube below.