Te Mana Ākonga - Māori Electoral Option
WSA – WELTEC STUDENTS’ ASSOCIATION
Students call for continued education on Māori Electoral Option
With the closing today of the Māori Electoral Option, Māori students of Te Mana Ākonga (the National Māori Tertiary Students’ Association) are calling for continued and enhanced education on the Option, beyond the current campaign held over the few weeks prior to and during the Option period.
“We see effort to raise awareness on the Option and our rights as Māori voters only during the Option period, only every six years” said Veronica Tawhai, Kaituhono of Te Mana Ākonga. “Legitimate democracy requires the highest level of informed and participating citizens. Māori students feel the current campaign on the Option fails to ensure this”.
Mou Te Mana Kowhiri, a national lecture series held by Te Mana Ākonga, aimed at generating discussion amongst students and the wider public about the Māori Electoral Option and the choices available to them. These lectures and other activities, held by Māori students’ in Auckland, Hamilton, Palmerston North, Wellington and Christchurch, were finalised today with a closing karakia (prayer) by the Māori students group of Te Whare Wānanga o Te Awakairangi (Wellington Institute of Technology).
“Māori students nationally are really proud of what we have achieved. All events saw engaged, passionate debate about our future and how we are going to get there” said Toni Bates-Spiro, President of Weltec Students’ Association. “It is also sad however to think the Option stops here for another six years. Those attending the Mou Te Mana Kowhiri events have expressed they are starved of the deeper understanding and stimulation the Option campaign creates”.
Māori students want the government to fund the development of an enhanced education campaign about the Māori Electoral Option and choices available to Māori voters, beyond that delivered during the Option period only. That way the Option period could focus solely on facilitating the administrative purpose of the Option, instead of also having to focus on informing people of their choices in the first instance.
“Both Māori and young people are constantly bombarded by complaints regarding low level enrolment and voting. A real commitment to reaching people about their rights and importance to our nation as political participants would go a long way in bettering our democracy for all” concluded Miss Bates-Spiro.