The Young & Informed: Make It 16 debate gives rangatahi the floor
by Nic George (he/him)
Candidates from a variety of parties took part in a youth debate focussed on housing inequality, climate change, and mental health at Auckland Town Hall on September 12th.
The hosts of the debate, Make It 16, took an unconventional approach, by inviting a range of young leaders on stage to ask the candidates questions.
On stage was Matt Doocey for National, Felix Poole for ACT, Chlöe Swarbrick for the Greens, Arena Williams for Labour, and Arabela Boatwright from Te Pāti Māori.
First up on the stage was a member of the Puketapapa Youth Foundation, Kate Laughter, a 17-year-old student from St Mary's College who lives in Roskill South. Laughter said her mother has been priced out of the housing market, despite qualifying for a first home-buyer grant.
She acknowledged that all parties had proposed or implemented policies to address this issue. Still, after seeing the prices of Kainga Ora houses exceeding the promised price cap by up to $210k, she wanted to know how each party would ensure follow-through on their promises.
"How do you measure that success when you are not the ones going through it, and how do you ensure that we, as the citizens of this motu, can afford adequate housing?"
Boatwright gave the first response, saying Te Pāti Māori's proposal is to establish a Māori Housing Authority to oversee the access to housing for Māori. The policy Boatwright was referring to stipulates that 50 percent of new social houses developed would be allocated to Māori.
She said the way to measure the success is by "seeing Māori own their own homes without financial burden."
Census data from 2018 shows the Māori homeownership rate was only 31 per cent, while the national rate was 52 per cent, indicating the disproportionate impact of the housing crisis on Māori.
Swarbrick pointed to the international affordability metrics that track the cost of housing compared to annual income, which she says Aotearoa performs poorly in.
"Internationally, it's considered that affordability standards are approximately three times one's annual income. Here in Aotearoa, particularly in Tāmaki Makaurau, it's approximately 11 to 12 times."
She said the only way to improve that metric is for there to be a "consensus" among political parties that they want house prices to come down.
"You will not hear that from either the National or Labour party.
"They will talk amorphously about the concept of affordability, but let’s talk about what affordability actually is and about how, in order to get there, house prices do need to drop."
Poole said the ACT Party's key focus was increasing the supply of housing by helping the private market through improvements to infrastructure and creating a more "flexible" consent process.
"If we actually get the core infrastructure ready to build houses, then we are going to build more houses."
He mentioned ACT's plan to share 50 per cent of the GST revenue from the construction of new homes. He said this would incentivise councils to free up land for development.
In Laughter's closing remarks, she said "If you want rangatahi to own a home, you need to fulfil these promises and listen to what they're asking for."
The next question was about climate change, from UNICEF’s young ambassador Nele Kalolo, who was born in Samoa and raised in South Auckland.
She said a question she is constantly asked is “What keeps you motivated?” and while she acknowledges this comes from a good place, she said she feels like there is no other option. “As a young person, and someone from the Pacific, my answer is ‘I didn’t realise it was an option to stop.’ If I stop, my island is gone and my world is gone.”
Kalolo said while she is proud of the climate action work that has been done in Aotearoa, it’s currently limited to those who are privileged enough to stand up and fight.
She said this leads to a big portion of rangatahi being left out of the conversation, so she wanted to know how the candidates planned to bring those people on board.
"How do your parties plan on encouraging our young people to shape climate justice and climate action in Aotearoa, especially for our Māori and Pasifika youth?"
Williams said the most effective way is through climate action at a local level. She highlighted the support Labour has given to organisations, like Te Pu-a-nga Maara, who work with youth in communities to get involved.
"Thanks to Jobs for Nature, Te Pu-a-nga Maara is bringing 30 young people into those jobs to test the water, replant, and restore [Puhinui] stream.
"It's linking up that local work and bringing it to the national stage"