Kiwi teens speak out on their political views, how they balance study and work, and their future dreams. Interviews by Imogen Neale and Marika Hill.
They can't vote now, but in 10 years, their choices will carve out the country's future. The Sunday Star-Times spoke to seven teenagers from across New Zealand to get their take on life, loans and what lies ahead. From a budding vet to an aspiring astrophysicist, the teenagers said money was "overrated" and they wanted a job they loved, rather than one that made them a millionaire. Most felt their generation had a sweet deal but worried about stiff competition for jobs, the reliance on technology and just what would become of the environment. Keen to explore a world that's just hit seven billion, the teens saw themselves as coming home... one day.
AMY ATKINS, 15 Year 10, Awatapu College, Palmerston North
I'm probably one of the few teenagers that over-thinks their future. I see myself taking a degree in veterinarian studies at Massey University. It appeals to me because I did work experience as a wildlife vet nurse at Massey and I really love animals.
Past university, I would really like to go overseas. Quite a few of my friends want to go to Britain and those sorts of places because it seems like there are more opportunities.
We have the better education and more opportunities than our parents' generation. But with all that technology, like toddlers using iPads, you don't know if that's going to be for the better or worse – environmentally we have no idea. Some of our challenges would be understanding new things. Teachers don't always spend enough time on new things.
There is a lot of pressure to succeed at a high level, depending which category you fall into at the school. I've put a bit of pressure on myself by thinking "I have to do this".
It's quite difficult; they say it's going to be really hard to get into university.
I don't have a part-time job but some of my friends do. I have put in for jobs over the summer. Unless you really put yourself out there it's really hard to get a job. And when a job comes up, everyone goes for it. For me, money is only important to get me through what I need to do. If I need to travel I would want money for that.
I quite like [politics] so keep track of it. I've read all of the new ways to vote. I do feel inclusive but not voting inclusive. I would like the younger generation to have a greater voice because it sometimes seems our ideas and beliefs almost seem better than what an adult might decide. I would vote for the Green Party because I think their policies are up to date when concerning our surrounding environment.
KAITLYN BROOKS, 14, Year 10, Forest View High School, Tokoroa
I want to go on to university to start a vet degree. Since about the start of high school I've known that that's what I really wanted to do. I've always loved animals. I don't know if I'll stay in Tokoroa but it'd be somewhere in New Zealand. I think you have to be happy in the job you're in and not go to work every day and dread what's going to happen. You need to have good relationships with the people you work with.
Some weekends I do baking for one of my mum's mates and I get paid for that. It's just for her family because she's not a big baker. [I make] sweet stuff like marshmallow slice, meringues, biscuits, cakes. If I need something, I save [the money], if not, and I need something at the time, I'll spend it. I definitely think doing drugs is stupid. It's a waste of your life. You've just got to get in the right crowd and you pretty much avoid it completely.
I think I would vote National as they seem to be doing all right and the others didn't last time. I think mum would agree with me as she thinks they are all rubbish.
JEMIMA HUSTON, 14
Year 10, Cashmere High School, Christchurch
I would like to be on television presenting the news or playing netball for New Zealand. When I was in Year 8 I went to Capital E studios in Wellington. They have a pretend studio and you dress up as a news presenter and you present pretend news. That pretty much decided it for me.
I would like to be able to provide for myself and my family in the future but it's not, like, my goal is to get money for my job.
I think in some ways [my life] will be easier because my mum moved a lot from country to country and it's easier to get jobs if people know you – instead of going place to place.
The will to achieve comes from everybody – your family and your teachers and your peers – but it depends. If your peers and your family don't really care whether you learn or not, then you'll probably have the same sort of mind set.
I would vote for Labour because I agree with their polices. Also I like our local MP Ruth Dyson. She came to speak to my school and I thought she was very convincing and I agreed with what she had to say. But I don't have a lot of confidence in the leader of the Labour Party. I feel that he lacks charisma. I think my vote would be in in keeping with my parents because I would vote left and my parents are very left wing. They are deciding whether to vote for the Labour Party or the Green Party.
MIA PETROVIC, 16, Year 11, Rangitoto College, Auckland
I'm hoping to go to university overseas, just for the experience. I play water polo as a sport, I play for New Zealand, and I reckon if I keep training hard I'll be able to get a sports scholarship to a university in America, so then I get to study what I want to over there. I think I want to be a lawyer for children. At the moment I'm into the written stuff like law and debates and that kind of thing.
I love travelling and I really want to just get out of New Zealand while I am young and just go see the world. I reckon I will end up living in New Zealand when I am older. But I wouldn't mind living in Europe for a bit – just for the difference.
I think sometimes money can be a bit overrated. But I do think, just to have the security there is comforting, you know it can make things a lot easier. I do think I will always aim to have a well paid job, but I'm not going to be very upset if I don't. It will be a bonus.
My parents moved to New Zealand from Croatia – they moved here during the war. They pretty much started everything again in New Zealand, 17 years ago.
So I think that just how hard they've worked will mean I get it a lot easier because I've been brought up in a way that I can have more opportunities than they had. I've never been the type of person to slack off and I always try really hard. What I do get offered, I try to make the most of it.
I don't really have a preferred political party and that's because I haven't really looked into all of their policies and ideals with much detail.
I do know that I do not agree with some of the policies of the major parties, for example National's policy to lower the minimum wage. I do not feel that it is fair that my elders are voting on a policy that could potentially affect me greatly.
BEN BLACK, 16, Year 12, King's High School, Dunedin
Language is always something I've had an interest in. I'm not sure if I'll pursue that here or overseas. Next year, hopefully I will do one university paper in languages. Then in my first year at university I will do a BA in politics, anthropology and law.
I don't really have a career plan. I've chosen subjects I'm interested in but not too obscure that I'm unemployable. The skills I have are relatively versatile – I have been described as an academic person. All signs are pointing to the fact that money will be hard to find and we will have to work longer hours for the same money our parents might have made.
There's not much distracting me [from school work]. I only do what I want to do, so I don't end up doing things out of obligation.
I would probably vote National, as although changes in policy may benefit New Zealand, John Key is obviously a popular Prime Minister for a good reason. In my view, people are punishing him for being the bearer of bad news; much like Obama has been in the USA. The reality is that New Zealand, and the world, have been struggling economically and socially, and I think that any politician would make similar decisions to John. I'm honestly not sure of my parents' voting choice, however, I do know that Phil Goff's Labour policies are not something they see as beneficial to New Zealand's interests long term.
TINA BONSU-MARO, 16
Year 12, Mangere College, Auckland
I'm half and half [sporting and academic] but I really take my studies seriously. I play netball, touch, volleyball and indoor. I play these for Counties [Manukau] and I trialled for Auckland. History is my favourite subject, but I like English. I always prioritise my time – it's hard but you have to find the time. I think that comes from my mum.
My sports teacher was recommending that I take a sport scholarship but then again, I want to go to AUT for journalism. I just watch a lot of E! News and I'm really passionate about media – I like the entertainment industry. It looks like they're having fun and they get to travel as well. Their personalities on the show appeal to me, they're just themselves. I would prefer to go over to the United States for a little while to work. That's my dream.
I reckon my parents' life was harder. The way they have described it, it was way harder.
I would vote for Labour, they cater for the poor and the rich. My parents would agree with my decision. National is affecting my mum's pay.
MAHALI MATEHE, 16
Year 12, Aranui High School, Christchurch
I want to study astrophysics at university. Physics is quite mathematically based and maths comes a bit easy to me. My friends are still deciding [on careers], they don't know. After I finish my studies and get a PhD I will get a job as a research scientist in astrophysics. I would love to go overseas, probably Australia or America. Astrophysics is my passion but there isn't a huge need for that sort of position in New Zealand. I'd say my friends will end up overseas. Definitely not in Christchurch.
It is hard to succeed at school, especially after the earthquake. We had to squeeze all our topics into a short amount of time. You have less time to study for a certain subject and may not be able to achieve as high.
I work two nights a week, eight hours each, at a bar. My friends can't get jobs. It is really difficult because many companies are closing down, moving, and some don't have the money to hire workers.
Times are changing. I don't think we're involved with politics as much as our parents. I have very limited knowledge on politics. However, if I were to vote, I would vote for Labour [because] they are looking at increasing the minimum wage.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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