It’s local election time and although most Macleans students can’t vote just yet, the decisions being made at the Auckland Council’s Governing Body will ultimately affect each and every one of us.
The governing body is made up of 20 councillors and they decide on how often your bus comes, how often your recycling is collected and ultimately the future of Auckland itself.
The two councillors for the Howick Ward will be the voice for all 130,000 people who live in East Auckland — a population equal to the size to Dunedin.
Despite that, the minority of us who can vote… don’t. Youth turnout consistently lags far behind that of people aged 65+.
A quarter of nonvoters identified lack of information about candidates as the primary reason as to why they didn’t vote in the last local elections.
That’s why The Collegian has extended an interview invitation to all the candidates running for East Auckland’s two spots on the governing body — all have gotten back to us with something. We hope this will positively contribute to the information available as voting begins today in local elections around New Zealand.
Due to the varied pace and nature of the interview, Councillor Paul Young’s answers have been summarised based on category.
Youth voter turnout is low in Auckland, as it is around the world, and especially in local elections like the one you’re running in.
What would you do to increase voter turnout among young Aucklanders?
I think education is the most important. Young people need to know what politics is about and what politicians do. How they manage the rates, the water. They need to know how they can benefit from voting.
Engagement is important for me. Leading by example, e.g. I am quite happy coming here and sharing my experience.
The governing body has voted to make public transport free for all under-16s on weekends — this has now gone into effect. Do you think public transport should be free for under-16s? Would you extend this to all secondary and tertiary students?
In New Zealand, not only are the transportation costs too high, but generally costs are too high. So I would like to, in a second term to involve more understanding of why the same things that happen in other countries is much cheaper there, as compared to here.
So transport, we should cover as much as we can. That’s good because access to transport can lead to more growth. The big question though is how we pay for it.
On council management:
This council needs to be run very smart, like running a business. Everything can be free, but who will pay for that.
We need to find out: How can we manage the money more efficiently? Where does the money come from? Can we save the money?
I think the council could be better run and must become better; but at the moment, the system is very bureaucratic. We need great leadership who have a business sense, who can run it like a business.
What is your long-term vision for council investments in roads, cycleways, and public transport?
We see in China, they have the infrastructure figured out first: they figure out the roads, motorways and trains first, and then they plan property and other things.
But with our government in New Zealand, we built housing first and that meant we couldn’t grow properly. We need to plan transport first before we plan other things like property.
On AMETI, I don’t believe AT has considered the potential population growth for the project. That’s where we need more planning.
The other day I asked AT: can we try to close all the roads in the CBD and only allow bikes to enter — then measure how many people were using bikes.
Of course, there’s no reply. Because using the cycleway is good, but we are not like Amsterdam or other parts of Europe. We can’t just copy these ideas of bikes or light rail. We need to see the issues here in Auckland.
I can tell you, I’m the only person pushing very hard for trackless trams in Auckland Council in the last 10 months. To my understanding, AT wasn’t investigating using trackless trams until I brought it up with them and now they’re looking at running it from Airport to Botany.
The road death toll in Auckland has been steadily increasing: between 2014 and 2017, there was a 70% increase in deaths and serious injuries on Auckland’s roads. Just last week, Auckland Transport adopted ‘Vision Zero’, a goal of zero deaths or serious injuries by 2050. What would you vote for in order to improve road safety?
Firstly, education and educating drivers.
AT has been reducing the speed, which is good. But if you reduce everything, you’re going to make the whole city go slowly and that’s not good. In fact I’ve seen European motorways where they don’t really have speed limits and it’s alright — so it’s the behavior that needs to change.
Secondly, we should have much higher penalties if you’re caught; I personally think our law should be more tight. That can help change behaviour.
Also one thing which I thought was interesting: in Taiwan, if you have a dashboard camera and you catch someone doing something dangerous on video — if you send the recording to the police, then the penalty fine gets split 50-50 between you and the police. I think that kind of thing can also help shape behaviour.
But foremost, I think education is the most important to change behaviour.
Owning a house seems impossible for young Aucklanders, as real wages remain too low for ever-rising house prices. What do you believe is the solution to our housing crisis?
Do you support new high-density housing developments in Howick?
I support high-density house building, but I don’t support it in the Howick area. Because you need transportation links for high-density. The first priority in housing is transportation.
If your transportation is alright, you don’t have a housing problem, if people find the commute convenient enough. For example, if we had a bullet train from Auckland to Hamilton which only took 10 minutes and was cheaper. Where do you want to live? For the new buyer, they obviously can now live in Hamilton.
We actually should have a satellite city, but before that, if you want high density, transport has to be involved. But people always talk about new apartments, new developments without talking about new roads, new transportation.
The Auckland Council’s governing body voted unanimously to declare a climate emergency. How urgent do you think climate change is?
What course of action do you think the council should take?
Before I was a councillor, I ignored the climate change issue. But the reality, when I became a councillor, I got involved I saw that, wow, it’s a really big issue.
I don’t want to just talk, we have too many meetings without action. I would like for Council to put more funding and more resources on the issue. Some particularly good news is that young people in this field are very aggressive on climate change which I fully support.
We have to do something immediately, but also keeping in mind the other issues for Auckland like transport.
If you had to pick, who would you vote for mayor?
I’m not going to say who I’m going to support.
Looking at things I’m interested in, like transport, Mayor Goff says he’s going to keep things the same. John Tamihere, a lot of what he has to propose seems pretty hard to complete — but he gave me a message of change.
On a personal level, I think AT, honestly, is working very hard right now. But it could be better and better and better. That’s where I somewhat agree with Tamihere, that there can be change.
Transcript edited for brevity and clarity. Interview by Grace Baylis and Justin Hu. Published on 03/10/2019.
Learn more about the upcoming local elections:
Stuff: Auckland local body elections: How to vote, what you are voting on and key dates
The Collegian: What’s at stake for East Auckland in the local elections?
NZ Herald, opinion (Simon Wilson): The reinvention of Auckland – Why the council election matters (Pressreader)