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The Young & Informed: Auckland Central MPs take on the big issues

by Nic George (he/him)

chief reporter

With the election cycle in full swing, it’s easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of scandals and drama of political theatre - it’s even easier to disengage completely. But we here at Debate want to bring the discussion back to the top issues facing those living in Tāmaki Makaurau.

We reached out to students over Instagram to find out what their biggest concerns were going into this election, and took them to the MP candidates of Auckland Central to hear what their proposed solutions are.

Who are Auckland Central’s Leading Candidates?

Chlöe Swarbrick (Greens)

As the incumbent in this election, Swarbrick is looking to extend her role as representative for the Auckland Central electorate for another three years.

She was the first member of the Greens to win the seat in 2020, and became the face of the party’s youth movement.

Her rapid ascension through the ranks of the Green party was typified when she was named the third on the party list, only behind co-leaders Marama Davidson and James Shaw.

Mahesh Muralidhar (National)

While Nikki Kaye and National had a firm grip on the seat for the 12 years prior to the last election, the party is looking to reclaim the seat this year after Kaye’s retirement in 2020.

Muralidhar fits the National party’s business-centric image as the chief executive of Phase One Ventures, which focuses on investing in start-ups in New Zealand and Australia.

Prior to this role, he was also a key figure for the graphic design platform Canva as the company grew to become a globally recognised brand.

Oscar Sims (Labour)

The Labour Party hasn’t won the Auckland Central electorate since 2005, So they’ve decided to reshuffle the seats and move their candidate for the past two elections, Helen White, to Mt Albert and bring in some youth with Oscar Sims.

At the age of 25, Sims is aiming to be the first Gen-Z MP elected to parliament.

His background in housing advocacy as a spokesperson for the Coalition for More Homes led him to launching his career in politics.

What are the big issues students are concerned about?

Cost-of-living crisis

While annual inflation recently dropped below 6 per cent, a report from Stats NZ has found that the cost of living has remained high due to rising food and housing costs.

The average price of food has increased 12.5 per cent since last year, according to Stats NZ’s food price index.

Labour's Oscar Sims said he believes people are being “ripped off” at the supermarket, due to a lack of competition in the grocery sector.

“I think a lot of that comes back to the fact that we really only have two grocery providers in New Zealand.”

He said Labour’s main focus is to create opportunities for shoppers to have a wider range of choices when it comes to groceries.

“We've just recently passed laws and instituted a bunch of new rules around competition. Costco is an early example of that.”

Sims also highlighted Labour’s recent policy change which removed prescription fees for medication.

“For people who might be receiving a bunch of different prescriptions every month, that fee can add up pretty quickly.”

National's Mahesh Muralidhar said his top priority was driving down inflation by pulling back on government spending.

“There are three levers to control inflation: consumer spending, business spending, and government spending.

“The current government has wasted all of their money on consultants and bureaucracy, which has driven up inflation and put an unfair burden on businesses and consumers.”

The other priority for Muralidhar is raising incomes “across the board”, as he pointed to other major cities abroad offering higher paying jobs.

However, he said he is opposed to increasing the minimum wage despite a large portion of students relying on those jobs while they study.

“Our focus needs to be on growing the pie for everyone and giving students something to aspire to.”


For a lot of students, the prospect of owning a home in the current housing market seems unattainable.

Outside of home ownership, the cost of rentals in Tāmaki Makaurau has put a lot of pressure on students.

The cost and quality of rental properties in Tāmaki Makaurau is a major concern, with many students living in expensive, cold and mouldy flats.

Chlöe Swarbrick and the Greens are proposing a series of policies to address these renting issues - for students specifically, they plan to adjust tenancy laws regarding student accommodation.

“Student accommodation is currently exempt from the Residential Tenancies Act under Section 5B, which means that there is not a need for those providing student accommodation to meet the same standards as is required of landlords. We want to remove that exclusion.”

Swarbrick highlighted three policies from the Greens that she said will improve living standards for renters.

The first is a rental warrant of fitness, which she said would “fix some of the long-term issues with the healthy home standards.”

She claims this certification would “reverse the burden of proof”, by ensuring rentals are healthy to live in from the start rather than taking the issue to the tenancy tribunal.

“It's a pretty unsatisfactory outcome that comes out of the Tenancy Tribunal - not only for renters, but also for landlords.”

The second key policy Swarbrick proposed was a register for property managers and landlords.

“That would enable us to have a central repository of those who are directly managing their own properties, or who have property managers managing those properties for them.”

She said this could be used as an educational tool for renters and landlords to better understand their rights and responsibilities.

The third change she mentioned was implementing rent controls that would limit the amount landlords could increase rent annually.

“Our proposal is for no more than 3% per annum increases in rental prices, which would help to finally tackle the issue that we've seen in runaway rental increases compared to wages.”

Sims highlighted the changes Labour has already put in place for renters, such as no-cause evictions and the Healthy Home Standards.

“Obviously, there’s still more work to do but I think we're moving in the right direction in terms of both supply and also tenant’s protections.” Sims said.


Not only have ram raids been dominating the news cycle over the past year, but Tāmaki Makaurau recently experienced a spree of violent gun crimes, with the shooting at the port and another on Queen Street.

Muralidhar said he believes this issue needs to be tackled through “short and long-term solutions."

The priority for National was to get more police on the street that are visible to the public.

Muralidhar referenced the ‘Broken Window Theory’, which was a form of proactive policing that cracked down on minor crimes like vandalism and loitering.

The theory asserts that focussing on these crimes will provide the public a sense of safety while also deterring further criminal activity.

Swarbrick contested this view by pointing to the Safe and Effective Justice Review published in 2019, which looked at ways to reform the criminal justice system to address intergenerational traumas that push disadvantaged people into criminality.

She acknowledged that this approach is not as “politically sexy” for voters.

“It doesn't give you a great 'tough on crimes' soundbite. So the question is, do we want just these hot take soundbites or do we want policies that actually work?”

Climate Change

With both the Auckland anniversary floods and Cyclone Gabrielle hitting earlier this year, the city has experienced the first-hand impacts of climate change.

The two major areas being discussed by politicians are mitigation and adaptation.

Mitigation refers to changes that reduce emissions and other impacts on the environment, while adaptation is focussed on creating procedures and safety nets for future climate related events.

Swarbrick argued that while these two approaches appear to be on opposing ends of the debate, “meaningful mitigation is also adaptation.”

She said her focus for Auckland is transport and revamping the city’s car-reliant infrastructure.

“In Tāmaki Makaurau, our largest emissions profile is transport and it's also the fastest growing emissions profile nationally as well.”

Sims was aligned with Swarbrick on this issue, he said there needs to be a fundamental shift in city planning.

“How do we change the way that our cities are laid out in such a way so that everything that you need is within active transport? Building housing along train lines is a great example.”

Muralidhar said his top priority for addressing climate change is creating more opportunities for experts from abroad to come to New Zealand and help develop technology to help with mitigation and adaptation.


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