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Work to engage MIT students in people's poll

TAO LIN
Last updated 05:00 12/11/2013
MIT Referendum

REFERENDUM PREP: Registrar of electors Kenneth Lam and his team gave a presentation on voting and enrolment information to make sure MIT’s Pacific nursing students are ready to vote in the Citizens Initiated Referendum.

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Voting on the sale of state-owned assets starts this month and Manukau Institute of Technology Pacific nursing students will be ready to have their say.

The 2013 Citizens Initiated Referendum will ask the question: "Do you support the Government selling up to 49 per cent of Meridian Energy, Mighty River Power, Genesis Power, Solid Energy and Air New Zealand?"

Registrar of electors Kenneth Lam held an information session for Pacific nursing students at MIT last week as part of a push to get young people to take part.

Mr Lam says the Electoral Commission is working hard to encourage people to voice their opinions.

He and his staff spend a lot of time at education institutions, promoting the importance of voting and enrolling to vote.

They normally set up stalls at universities during orientation weeks but they also visit classes to give presentations and to enrol people or update their information.

Those sessions are generally positively received and people are receptive to filling out enrolment forms, Mr Lam says.

People need to be proactive in order to get their voices heard, he says.

"It's all about people making the effort to look for information and engage in meetings and public forums."

But capturing the interest of young people is difficult.

Mr Lam says the commission is now working with Auckland Council to educate students about the importance of voting at a younger age.

Nursing student Moefilifilia Aoelua says getting people to vote isn't as easy as telling them to make more effort to get information.

"Not everyone has the same level of understanding [of English]. Some people go [to candidate offices] and feel scared with that communication barrier."

A better way to reach communities in South Auckland would be to distribute information in places where lots of people gather, the 22-year-old says.

Using the influence of a church minister to encourage people to enrol and vote could be more effective, she says.

Fellow student Paloma Palmer-Huitema says the disengagement from younger people comes down to a lack of voting campaigns targeted at youth.

"Young people aren't owning their own homes, they still think their parents are responsible for them," she says.

"For people who have just left school, the ‘bigger issues' aren't their priorities."

Student Shari Kauri used to work for the Electoral Commission and knows exactly how important it is to vote to influence change in the community.

"Otara is a town that's deprived in many things. We want people in government who are going to help the deprived towns. In order to have your voice heard, [you need to] vote."

The referendum takes place from November 22 to December 13 and enrolled voters will receive their voting papers in the mail.

Freetext your name and address to 3676, visit

any Post Shop or call 0800 367 656 to receive

an enrolment form.

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- Manukau Courier

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