Increased number of young candidates looking to stand in 2019 local body elections

There's an increase in interest from young people looking to stand in this year's local body elections.

The elections are still three months away, but candidates in their 20s and 30s are already coming forward - and it is hoped to boost voter turnout. 

Ryan Jones, from Dunedin, left school at 15, and became a dad at 16.

He is completing his first term on the West Harbour Community Board, and the 22-year-old believes his input is valued.

"This election I'll be pushing for more young people to stand in the city council and community board elections. Hopefully, we'll see a higher turnout as a result of that," Jones told Newshub.

There are 66 city and district councils and 110 community boards across the country.

Elections are in October. Voter turnout at the last local body elections was just 45 percent, and it is even lower among younger people.

"We know that young people traditionally don't vote in local body elections, largely because they don't see it as relevant to them," Co-chair of LGNZ Young Elected Members Network, Aaron Hawkins, told Newshub.

The president of Local Government NZ, Dave Cull, thinks there are several reasons - including postal voting.

Councillors are also typically older, with just six percent under the age of 40.

"It can lead to apathy actually on the part of our voting public. So having a wide range of candidates can only be a good thing," says Cull.

"That means not just more young people, but more women, more Māori, Pasifika, more Asian candidates," says Hawkins.

Green MP Chlöe Swarbrick is one shaking things up. She joined the Auckland Mayoral race in 2016.

Auckland councillor Richard Hills, 32, is another who believes young people are becoming more aware of the role local government plays.

"I think finally they're realising that actually being around the table is sometimes better than just presenting at the table," Hills told Newshub.

Hopefully, this increased awareness brings in a new generation of leaders and voters throughout the country.