Here's What New Zealand Teens Actually Care About in Politics
Photos: Evangeline Davis

Here's What New Zealand Teens Actually Care About in Politics

The kids are alright.
September 3, 2017, 11:11pm

When photographer Evangeline Davis heard nearly 250,000 young New Zealanders still hadn't enrolled to vote, she launched a call-out for Wellington youth, asking them to talk about the political issues they care most about in a portrait series. The response was overwhelming.

As a photographer, Davis is known for her portraits of young women, after releasing her first book Touchy last year. She has been working on this series as a side-project, hoping the discussions will encourage more young New Zealanders to enrol. "I just wanted to show that young people care about politics. With everything going on in politics, young people are underestimated and have the potential to all pull together to change the government."


"Until recently I've only really engaged with international politics, where the binary between the left and the right is more blatant and seems more significant in terms of its effects on marginalised people and countries as a whole. But now that this is my first opportunity to vote, I have realised that it often easier to confront other nation's problems than our own, which we should all resist doing. I am voting because I don't want to see any more people being failed by a flawed mental health system, Māoridom being portrayed as archaic or insignificant, immigrants and poor people being demonised and economic gain being prioritised over our people and environment."


"What is a democracy without casting our vote? This is our way of having our concerns and values represented. We are going to inherit this country and we have to be involved in deciding our own future. There's been a hole in our generation's education about politics, civics, the democratic system and how it works for us - we need to educate ourselves and get involved.
Young people are disengaged with this process because it has felt a bit pointless. There have been few people in politics that seem to be talking with us in a way that makes us want to get involved. Environmental protection needs to be considered right now. Important policy is required immediately, before the planet deteriorates to a critical stage. How can we address our other social problems if we don't have a safe planet to live on?"


"It enables us to have a say in what we want from our government or what we want our government to consist of. Some countries don't allow people to voice their opinions and I think that's why it's important we exercise our right to vote, as we are lucky enough to live in a country with a democracy."


"I hope they can raise taxes for the rich, lower taxes for the poor and get rid of double tax. Hopefully this can fix the disparity between the rich and poor to help big problems like the housing crisis etc. And legalise MJ because we all know it's better for you than the binge drinking culture out here. I vote because I care about the future. I want to move out of home to an affordable yet livable place. And I love New Zealand and believe we can do better."


"The two main issues that concern me in the upcoming election are poverty and mental health. The issue of poverty has always been around in New Zealand and is known by so many. This issue feeds into so much of our society, and the effects are all around us. The alarming rate of mental illness within our country proves in itself that it is an issue that needs to be solved. Aside from voting being a basic right - a right that some had to fight to have - voting is what gives us our voice. If you abstain from voting… you also abstain from having a voice or opinion on anything that happens in your country for the next term."


"I guess the most important issue for me this election is our system of economics. My main concern, hard to pick one, is probably actually global warming but I think our economic system and reacting to global warming are incompatible. As long as the guiding moral force for the majority of business in Aotearoa is the profit incentive, environmental issues cannot take centre stage. For me, a society equipped to combat global warming is a society of educated workers with democratic power over their workplaces. Our current economic status quo is obsessed with controlling inflation and creating budget surplus at the expense of democracy and education."


"The ongoing lack of sufficient distribution and emphasis on information surrounding governance and politics is one of the main contributors to the poor voting stats and participation. For me both as a newly 'radicalized' activist and former 'normal person' I like to think of my votes as being represented by each dollar I spend, and my electoral votes as a contribution to a national conversation. This allows me to be somewhat accountable to my votes every day, rather than maybe once every four years. I wish politics would do the same."


"Not only is voting our right, but it is our voice. Many of us, especially those of my age, feel as though our voice means little in the world of adults. Teenagers are treated in an especially interesting way where are expected to learn about the issues in our world and develop an opinion on them, but any opinion we do develop is disregarded and pushed aside for a more formidable "adult" opinion. It is common and normal for us to feel that our voice is not important and not required. However, with the election looming and with the presence of such significant issues becoming more prominent, it is becoming clear that this is not the case. We are the voice of tomorrow, and as cliché as that sounds we are the people who will have to live in this world which our parents and their parents have chosen for us. So, we must vote for our tomorrow, the tomorrow that we actually want to see."