Advocacy group cristices Jacinda Ardern's voting age comments

The National and Labour leaders faced off in a debate on Tuesday.
The National and Labour leaders faced off in a debate on Tuesday. Photo credit: Getty

A youth-led advocacy group has criticised the Prime Minister over her comments about whether the voting age should be lowered.

Jacinda Ardern faced off against National Party leader Judith Collins in their first televised debate on Tuesday ahead of the 2020 election.

The leaders discussed issues including the COVID-19 response, border control, health, housing, employment, income inequality and climate change.

After a segment about employment, host John Campbell asked about New Zealand's youth and their role in politics.

Currently, the voting age in New Zealand is 18, but some 16 years olds have been campaigning through 2020 to gain the right to vote.

Collins said she was against lowering the voting age, but Ardern declined to give a 'yes' or 'no' answer.

"I wouldn't rule it out in the future but let's get civics right first, let's support our young people to learn about politics," Ardern said.

But on Wednesday the Make it 16 campaign said they were disappointed civics education was being used as an excuse.

"We absolutely support civics education in New Zealand schools," co-director Gina Dao-McLay said, "but when successive governments have overlooked a comprehensive civics education programme as part of our school curriculum, it's ironic that politicians are now using this as an excuse."

"Voting is a fundamental human right, and there is no good reason to deny 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote."

Make it 16's co-director Dan Harward-Jones said they believe more civics education is needed for New Zealanders at all stages of their lives.

"There is currently no minimum level of education required for someone over the age of 18 before they are given their ballot," he said.

"The best way to make any classroom lesson stick is by putting those theoretical lessons into practice.

"Civics education and extending the right to vote go hand in hand. We can, and should, do both."