Youth politicians share their thoughts on Ihumātao

By Tema Hemi

Youth parliament member Lily Lewis says the government should have intervened more into the land issue at Ihumātao.  The year 13 Makoura College student says it's important that youth parliament members engage in controversial social issues that affect our country in preparation for a future in politics. 

Lewis says, "The one solution is very clear to me.  The government buys back the land, it's not a lot of land, its only about 32 hectares, and they gift it back to the tangata whenua."

Although discussions between occupiers at Ihumātao and the government have been described as positive, Lewis says more could have been done. 

"I definitely think they could have intervened more.  I definitely stand on the side of the Greens in this situation and it is their land and there's a lot that's going on that really shouldn't be because of tikanga."

In July, young people got to experience parliament house and its inner workings as well as the thorny issues parliamentarians deal with on a day-to-day basis.

Shine Wu-Ohariu of Duke University says, "So to be honest I know there is a dispute going on up there, I haven't done too much research into it [but] I've been to lots of conferences and lots of events where issues about iwi members and about communities have been at the forefront."

"I've been one to keep an eye out on what's happening and then do my research and then engage.  It's definitely more of an encouragement when things like this come up that are potentially controversial," says Lewis.

Youth Minister Peeni Henare says its integral to the future of NZ politics that our future leaders are engaged.  

Henare says, "These young leaders are across all topical issues of the day, not just issues pertaining to youth only but all sorts of issues of national concern like climate change and the environment, employment, foreign affairs, suicide and others."

Ministers have been in discussions on Ihumātao since last Friday, with more expected to take place in coming days.

They would be wise to consider the opinions of the youth present at parliament for a fresh perspective.