Souls to the Polls: Housing, crime top issues for voters at south Auckland church

South Auckland pastor Joseph Fa'afiu says voting in a general election gives people a voice.
Chris Harrowell

South Auckland pastor Joseph Fa'afiu says voting in a general election gives people a voice.

In the final story in our 'Souls to the Polls' series, we look at what the leaders of south Auckland's religious communities are doing to encourage their faithful to vote in this year's general election, and the different political issues they're facing.

A south Auckland church's members are being urged to vote based on their values.

Joseph Fa'afiu​ is lead pastor at The Gate Christian church in Papakura.

Joseph Fa'afiu founded the HopeWalk movement in 2015 after losing a close friend to suicide.
Chris Harrowell

Joseph Fa'afiu founded the HopeWalk movement in 2015 after losing a close friend to suicide.

The Māngere resident says the church encourages its members to vote in this year's general election on September 23.

READ MORE: 

Souls to the Polls: PART 1 - Housing and immigration among top issues for Muslims
Souls to the Polls: PART 2 - Christian voters asked to focus on moral issues for general election

Joseph Fa'afiu says his church's members will consider a wide range of political issues when voting in the election.
Chris Harrowell

Joseph Fa'afiu says his church's members will consider a wide range of political issues when voting in the election.

"It's important. It's only every three years.

"We encourage them to vote from the front during sermons and through social media.

"The vote is their voice so don't complain if you don't put a vote in [and dislike the outcome of the election]."

Fa'afiu says the church draws worshippers from suburbs including Manurewa, Māngere, Ōtara, Papakura and Hunua.

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Its leaders don't tell their congregation what political party or candidate to vote for, but they do urge them to vote based on their value system and to become informed on the issues, he says.

Fa'afiu says housing is one of the biggest political issues faced by his church's members.

"Lucky for us none of them have been homeless, but a couple have been on the brink of it.

"They may have been asked to move out of their rental property.

"We got them to Work and Income so they were able to access emergency housing.

"About 70 per cent of our families rent and about 30 per cent own [their own home]."

Crime and public safety are other key issues for the church's members.

"There were some shootings in the area and I see people talking on social media about someone jumping over fences and stealing stuff," Fa'afiu says.

"What's good is that the community comes together and asks how we can tackle it.

"People want to know on the ground what are the practical things that can be done to keep them safe."

Youth suicide is one issue that's close to Fa'afiu's heart.

He's the founder of the HopeWalk suicide prevention campaign, which he started after one of his close friends took her own life several years ago.

"Youth suicide is a national issue," he says.

"We've had people in the church lose someone close to them through suicide."

Fa'afiu says the church has a large number of members who are aged 50 and older.

He expects those people will consider political parties' policies on superannuation when they go to vote.

"Some parties want to move it to 67 and others want to keep it at 65.

"Our young families ask how they will get their family into their own home.

"You've got to vote with your values and what you believe, and be informed, not just on policy."

* Go to elections.org.nz to enrol to vote or to check your enrolment status.

 - Stuff

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