This blog is part of a series of blogs profiling all candidates standing for Councils across the region who are 35 or under as we aim to increase youth engagement in local politics. Seed Waikato is non-partisan.
Kawena Jones, a young, highly-skilled, passionate Maori from Whatawhata, and candidate for Councillor of the Newcastle Ward.
Co-founder of Taurikura NZ, a social-enterprise which focusses on driving cultural sustainability and employment best-practice models in industry, a Board Member of Te Ahurei a Rangatahi Trust, a youth development organisation who provides peer education programmes to young people around the areas of health and sexual health, and club-captain of the Whatawhata Country Tennis Club.
Having worked in the public (iwi) sector for over six (6) years and a background in rangatahi (youth) development, Kawena is particularly passionate about education and employment outcomes, community engagement, economic development and environmental sustainability.
“We want a community that is thriving, a community that experiences what it is to feel included, engaged and where our voice and opinions are being heard, a community full of meaningful and sustainable opportunities, a community that is future-focussed with solid infrastructure, a community with a strong identity who will share our narratives and stories to the world, and a resilient community who embrace challenges and tackles them head on.”
- Kawena Jones
Q&A with Kawena!
1. What is your vision for the district?
We want a community that is thriving, a community that experiences what it is to feel included, engaged and where our voice and opinions are being heard, a community full of meaningful and sustainable opportunities, a community that is future-focussed with solid infrastructure, a community with a strong identity who will share our narratives and stories to the world, and a resilient community who embrace challenges and tackles them head on.
2. Why did you decide to run in this year’s election?
I decided to stand this year for local council because my incumbent has gone unopposed for the last 12 years, where no one in my ward has ever contested him for Council, I also chose to stand this year because less than 31% of our community voted at last elections - highlighting the fact that many parts of our communities are either disengaged or have no connection to council, it’s relevance and certainly have no understanding of how council decisions impact on our environmental, economic, social and physical well-being.
3. What are your top 3 priorities in your campaign?
Climate change - Advocating for robust and courageous planning for sustainable land and water use to protect future generations
Community Engagement - Advocating for effective strategies to engage our whole community in local government planning
Regional Economic Growth - Advocating for business and employment opportunities through infrastructure growth in our region
4. What’s been your biggest learning in your campaign?
I’ve learned to never take anything for granted, and that you can’t leave any stone unturned, all conversations and relationships are opportunities to connect, understand, empathise and listen to people in my community.
I’ve learned that local council have become extremely complacent when it comes to community engagement, particularly around planning and voting turnout.
I’ve learned more about myself in these last 3 months than I have in the last 10 years, in the sense that I’ve really challenged myself to think out-side of my norm, to be more accepting of being uncomfortable and I’ve been really proud of what I’ve been able to achieve in such a short amount of time
5. What do you think needs to be done to engage young people in voting?
I think it’s happening now, in the whole time that I’ve been a part of my community and certainly community politics this is the first time that I’ve seen this amount of young people choosing to stand for local board or council.
We’re in a season now, where young people are fed up with the status-quo and fed up with the poor decisions, poor leadership, uninspiring ideas and slow outcomes that have been delivered throughout local government.
One thing I’m confident in, is that with more young people standing for local council it will help boost younger voters because they reflect their views and the communities they serve.
6. What skills and experience do you bring to the table?
Experience working in a public sector
Board and Advisory experience
Community and rangatahi (youth) engagement
Maaori, iwi and mana whenua experience
7. What sets you apart from the other candidates?
I believe I am the youngest candidate who has put their name forward for the Waikato District Council this election, the first known Maaori to run for council from this particular ward (Newcastle Ward), iwi and mana whenua experience having worked for the iwi for the past 6 years, Inventive, go-getter, self-starter, people and results focused. Passionate about advancing my community. A sense-maker who isn't afraid to take calculated risks. Challenges the status quo, loves to win, super competitive and doesn't give up trying.