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National politicians not around for young people's concerns

National politicians disappear when asked to discuss young people's election concerns

Young people are being stonewalled by National Party candidates throughout New Zealand who are refusing to meet with them to discuss their concerns.

The outcomes of meetings being held with election candidates around the country are being uploaded to a website called Elect Who, a platform for young New Zealanders to find out candidates' stances on renewable energy, investment in low carbon technologies, and targets for reducing carbon emissions.

“As young people, shifting to low carbon alternatives is critical to protect our future. We think that all candidates serious about getting elected should at least take the time to talk to us about these issues,” says spokesperson Louis Chambers.

However, he says, when young people have contacted MPs and candidates from the National Party, most have refused to meet with them – directing them to Environment Minister Nick Smith or Senior Government Whip Chris Tremain, or not replying at all.

Lucinda Staniland, who tried to contact National MP Paul Quinn, was told Paul would be unable to participate. “When I repeated the request, stressing the importance of these issues to young people in his electorate, I was again refused a meeting.”

Elect Who has been launched by Generation Zero, a collective of young people frustrated at a lack of action on climate change and committed to finding and enacting sustainable solutions.

The group represents 6000 young people across New Zealand, and has forged partnerships with other youth organisations like Medical Students for Global Awareness.

“The broad support base behind Generation Zero shows that climate change is not just an environmental issue. It's about our future as young people, something everyone should be concerned about,” says Chambers.

Elect Who organisers say it appears National MPs have had a directive from caucus to channel all requests for meetings to Nick Smith and Chris Tremain.

“Frankly, this is a kick in the teeth for us. We’re not looking for a blanket response from caucus, but rather to inform individual electorates about how their candidates stack up,” says Chambers.

Earlier this year, the Elect Who campaign held successful meetings with Attorney-General Chris Finlayson and National Party candidates in Dunedin. A host of meetings with candidates from Labour, the Greens and the Act Party have also been held in electorates throughout New Zealand.

At these meetings, candidates were filmed responding to key questions about climate change, renewable energies and fossil fuel extraction. They were also asked to complete a pledge card, promising to support initiatives like increased spending on low-carbon and public transport services.

Candidate’s responses can be found at http://electwho.org.nz. In the next week more videos will be uploaded to the website as young people continue their nationwide campaign of meeting with candidates in their area.

“There is still time for National to come to the table,” says Chambers. “Some National MPs have agreed to meet with us despite the apparent directive not to. We are hopeful that the rest of the Party will see the light and stop ignoring the genuine requests of youth in their electorates.”

For further information visit www.generationzero.org.nz.


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