Young Waikato candidates talk climate change and council responsibility

Eight candidates aged under 35, who are running for seats in the upcoming local body elections across the Waikato region, pose for the camera at Seed Waikato event, "Let's give a sh*t about local politics". Back L-R Kesh Naidoo-Rauf, Sheryl Matenga, Dan Armstrong, Matthew Shea. L-R front Louise Hutt, Sarah Thomson, Matthew Small, Kawena Jones, Tim Young.

Eight candidates aged under 35, who are running for seats in the upcoming local body elections across the Waikato region, pose for the camera at Seed Waikato event, "Let's give a sh*t about local politics". Back L-R Kesh Naidoo-Rauf, Sheryl Matenga, Dan Armstrong, Matthew Shea. L-R front Louise Hutt, Sarah Thomson, Matthew Small, Kawena Jones, Tim Young.

Stuff | Maxine Jacobs | August 8, 2019

On a night of cuss words and politics, young candidates spoke and the crowd answered: Climate change is on the mind of youth. 

The sentiment was electric amongst the sea of about 200 wrinkle-free faces at the University of Waikato Tuesday night. 

On the stage of the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts eight hopefuls commanded the attention of the room, with the help of a slightly altered game of 'Cards Against Humanity'. 

The game is notorious for the raunchy, racist and down right disgusting cards players use to answer seemingly innocent questions, but host Seed Waikato - a youth charity - used the game's charm to question this year's under 35-year-old candidates about their polices, values and vision for their respective wards.

Criticism of current councils were the undertone of many answers that followed.

In a question put to the group 'what's coming to broadway this season' one Hamilton East contender Tim Young replied, 'Hamilton the musical: Urgently preparing for climate change'.

Young argued councils are fiscally responsible for addressing and adapting to climate change, demanding stronger scientific literacy and acceptance from elected officials. 

Mayoral and Hamilton West candidate Louise Hutt urged the audience to consider three phases to address the current and impeding climate issue Waikato and the world face.

Elect people set on tackling climate change, make the city a zero carbon city and improve existing infrastructure for the coming flooding.

"We have 10 years to limit the effects, if you think about it that's three elections, including this one ... it happens to us or it happens with us, either way it's happening."

Fierce environmental warrior Sarah Thomson, gunning for Hamilton West, highlighted Hamilton City Council's inaction towards the issue. 

She said it hadn't updated it's plan for climate change since 2008 and the city's emissions hadn't been gauged in more than 17 years.

"There's a lot of opportunity missed at the moment ... it's about having a clear vision for the city, a master plan and working with the community to make that happen."

Dan Armstrong, a Waikato Regional Council hopeful, said he'd contacted a Waikato Regional Councillor multiple times attempting to question policies around the topic.

But, when they eventually replied and said there was no intention for a review, it took Armstrong a bit to get his head around because he believed the issue was pressing, and to put a hold on combating the inevitable "didn't make any f...ing sense".

A survey conducted by Seed Waikato confirmed climate change was overwhelmingly the biggest issue on young minds, Seed Waikato CEO Gemma Major said.

"Young people are making their voice louder and louder about the things they care about, and seeing leaders stand up about the things they care about is really motivating."

However, in the last elections, only one third of young people voted, and Major admitted that while this event was full, they'd only tapped into one source of young voters. 

"It's not just a student issue. There's so much more work to be done, we're just scratching the surface this year."

Enrolling to vote can be done online or at various locations throughout the city, and closes 16 August.