Young prospective politicians made Parliament their home this week with the hope that they will be inspired to stand in the future as an MP for their electorate.
The secondary school students were hand-picked, 121 of them, by MPs who they have a political affiliation with, to spend a week during the school holidays as youth MPs.
Youth Parliament 2016 was launched on Monday by Youth Affairs Minister Nikki Kaye.
While they were getting a taste of what it’s like to be a politician including making speeches in the House and being interviewed by the media, there were some serious issues affecting rangatahi (youth) that they wanted the government to fix.
Te Karere spoke with four Youth MPs – one each representing Labour and the Greens and two representing the Māori Party.
Justice Te Amorangi Hetaraka (Ngāpuhi, Ngāti Wai, Tainui) is head girl at Whangārei Girls’ High School and recently created a non-religious karakia (prayer) called ‘Te Timatanga’ to help normalise Te Reo Māori at her school.
She’s representing Labour’s Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis.
The 17-year-old told Te Karere that her passion for humanity rather than economic affairs was why she aligned herself with Labour.
“I think they're (Labour) people-driven and not necessarily economically-driven - I really love that because I feel like if you listen to the people first that’s where you're going to make the real change,” she said.
Mr Davis was naturally quick to endorse his Youth MP representative saying that she’s a top student and has a bright future ahead of her.
“Ko Justice tētahi o ngā rangatira mō āpōpō e puta mai ana i Te Tai Tokerau,” hei tā Davis.
(“Justice is an emerging leader coming out of Northland,” Mr Davis said.)
Miss Hetaraka said the major issue that’s becoming more prevalent in Northland are children who live in dilapidated houses and whose parents are struggling to feed their children.
“Definitely in Te Tai Tokerau we are surrounded by child poverty and that's something I'm really passionate about and I really want to make a change in. It's a big issue that we need to be dealing with. In my opinion, I don't think it should be treated as a political football cos’ it really is at the moment. I don't think that's the right thing to be doing - it's a social crisis really,” she said.
She also said that she supported the Labour and Green parties working together to try and change the Government at the next general election.
Haven Henare-Heke is a Year 13 student at James Cook High School in Manurewa.
The 18-year-old is also on the Manurewa Youth Council where he holds a cultural advisory role.
He’s representing the Green’s Tāmaki Makaurau MP Marama Davidson.
He admitted that Ms Davidson was his favourite MP because of her passion and drive, and aligns himself with the Green Party because they care about the environment.
“E awhi ana, e manaaki ana i te hunga, otirā i te taiao o tō mātou nei whenua, o tō mātou nei kainga o Aotearoa,” hei tāna.
(“The Green Party helps to care and look after our environment in our home here in New Zealand,” he said.)
Homelessness in his electorate was the main issue that stood out for him.
“Ki roto i a Tāmaki Makaurau he kaupapa nui tēnā mō te hunga kei Tāmaki ki te tonga - te hunga e noho ana ki te marae o Te Puea. He kaupapa nui e patu ana i te oranga o te whānau, o te kura, i roto i ērā tūmomo āhuatanga katoa.”
(“In Auckland it's a big issue, especially for those living in South Auckland - those that are living on and relying on Te Puea Marae, it's an issue that strikes to the core of families and schools and all those other important things.”)
Ngahaki Gardiner (Te Arawa, Ngāi Te Rangi, Ngāti Ranginui) is a Year 13 student at Rotorua Lakes High School and is representing the Minister of Māori Development, Te Ururoa Flavell.
He said he chose the Māori Party because they’re the only party championing Māori initiatives in government.
“Ko te pāti tuatahi noa iho ka tū atu mō ngā take Māori, ka whawhai atu mō ngā take Māori - ko te Pāti Māori.”
(“They're the first party to stand up for Māori rights and to fight for Māori issues.”)
Te Paki o Hewa McKenzie from Tokoroa is no stranger to politics. His father Chris McKenzie stood for the Māori Party in Te Tai Hauāuru during the 2014 general elections with the blessing of Dame Tariana Turia.
The young Ngāti Raukawa man representing Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox said he had a natural affinity with the Māori Party.
“Ko te whāinga o te Pāti Māori, ngā tikanga e arohatia e au, ko ngā hopu manawa me te manaakitanga ngā mea e pātata ana ki te ngākau.”
(“The principles of the Maori Party that I like include having a heart and looking after people - those are two things close to my heart.”)
And like the other youth MPs Te Karere spoke to, both Gardiner and McKenzie said that poverty was the number one issue rangatahi Māori were concerned with.
“He tino maha ngā take, ki ōku whakaaro, ko te take o te whakamate i a rātou anō, ko te whakahaweatanga i runga i te ipurangi - he tino nui tēnā, engari ki ōku whakaaro ko te taniwha tino nui o rātou mā - ko te rawa kore,” hei tā Gardiner.
(“There are lots of issue facing young people in my opinion, suicide is one, cyber-bullying is another, but the biggest beast of them all is poverty,” Gardiner said.)
“Ko te pōharatanga o te ringa tētahi, ko te pōharatanga o te hinengaro hoki tētahi mea nui e pā ana ki ngā taiohi i tēnei rā,” hei tā McKenzie.
(“Poverty of the hand and poverty of the mind are two of the main issue affecting rangatahi of today,” McKenzie said.)
Māori Party co-leader Marama Fox is confident, based on what she’s witnessed with the youth MPs this week, that the political future of Aotearoa will be in good hands.
“Kāore he paku āwangawanga mō ngā rangi kei te heke mai. Ko te hunga rangatahi pēnei i ēnei nā - kei roto i ō rātou ringa te kaha o te iwi Māori e tū ana,” hei tāna.
(“I have no concerns about the future. Young people like these two (Ngahaki Gardiner and Te Paki o Hewa McKenzie) have the strength of the Māori people in their hands,” she said.)
Besides the 121 youth MPs, there were also 17 acting as Youth Press Gallery members.