When Gareth Hughes talks about youth issues, he’s speaking from recent experience; having only just turned 30, he is Parliament’s second youngest MP. However, in 30 years he has achieved a lot, as an activist, father and, since 2010, Green Party MP. Gareth has led a number of environmental and political campaigns, the most famous being the ‘Unhappy Meal’ campaign against McDonald’s use of GE chicken feed. Within a month of this campaign McDonald’s stopped using the feed, showing what passionate Kiwis like Gareth are capable of achieving.
What do you think it means to be a New Zealander in the 21st century?
I am proud New Zealand is an independent, multicultural society, and my vision is for an Aotearoa New Zealand that embraces the Treaty of Waitangi, turns the clean green myth into a reality and lifts children out of poverty.
What do you think are the major issues facing youth today and in the next 20 years?
Youth unemployment is the most pressing problem facing young New Zealanders. Many young Kiwis are missing out on education and opportunities in New Zealand that mean many leave our shores. Many will also find home ownership an impossible dream. Intergenerational equity is important and young Kiwis can rightfully be concerned that it looks like they will inherit an economy and environment that may unfortunately be in a worse state than their parents’ generation.
Why do you think youth should vote?
Youth need to be represented in the House of Representatives and have their say. Check out www.heykiwi.org.nz, where you can enrol to vote and download free music tracks from top New Zealand bands.
Why do you think it is important for youth to engage with the referendum?
MMP, our current system, has delivered a fairer electoral system where every vote counts, has encouraged parties to work together and has seen Parliament look more like New Zealand, with more women, Māori, minority and youth representation.