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Scrapping of Voting Age Bill called out as ‘discriminatory’

A Wairarapa Youth advocate says the government’s withdrawal of the Voting Age Bill is disrespectful and discriminatory.

The legislation would have allowed 16 and 17-year-olds to vote in council elections from 2028, but Local Government Minister Simeon Brown recently confirmed the coalition government has dumped these plans.

The previous government proposed lowering the voting age to 16 “but could not provide the public with any convincing reason why”, Brown said.

“Their plans were without logic, and we will not be progressing them.”

The previous government introduced the bill last year after the Supreme Court made a Declaration of Inconsistency that determined the voting age of 18 for both parliamentary and local elections was inconsistent with the New Zealand Bill of Rights 1990, and the inconsistency had not yet been justified.

Brown also said ratepayers and residents expect their local councils to be “sticking to core business of efficiently and effectively delivering local infrastructure and services”.

“Worrying about how to implement a new voting age regime would be a costly distraction for councils who have enough issues to deal with right now.”

Former Wairarapa Youth MP Meg Hunter, who submitted to the bill last year, said the decision to withdraw the Voting Age Bill “is just another example of the pattern of disrespect and discrimination against some of the least-protected groups in Aotearoa”.

“The government knows that lowering the voting age increases voter turnout,” Hunter said.

“They also know that the Supreme Court has ruled not allowing 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights and they know that young people voting is dangerous, because for the government it’s not about what’s fair or in the public interest; a failing democracy keeps them in power.”

In her submission to the bill last year, the former Kuranui College student said young people are “eager to be politically engaged and have their voices heard in matters that affect them”.

Hunter also said voting earlier in life “helps to entrench the habit of voting, leading to increased turnout in later years”.

“It is also important to address the issue of age discrimination. At 16, individuals in New Zealand can already drive, consent to sex and medical procedures, leave school, work full-time, and even own firearms.

“They assume numerous responsibilities and make important life choices, but are denied the right to vote, which is a fundamental aspect of our democratic society.

“It is unjust to treat 16 and 17-year-olds differently from other adults in society when it comes to political participation.”

Masterton Mayor Gary Caffell has previously expressed support for lowering the voting age to 16, while South Wairarapa Mayor Martin Connelly has said the bill would have benefits.

Meanwhile, Carterton Mayor Ron Mark has stressed the importance of focusing on increasing engagement and voter turnout among those who already have voting rights.

When Carterton District Council gave its feedback to the Review into the Future for Local Government last year, it did not find favour with the suggestion of lowering the voting age to 16.


LDR is local body journalism co-funded
by RNZ and NZ On Air.


  1. Young (16 and 17 year old) people’s cognitive abilities are not fully developed. They vote with their hearts and not their heads. Lowering the voting age to 16 would just further entrench support for feel-good but illogical policies. As for the Supreme Court, it is populated by activist judges who are ridiculously woke and completely out of touch with mainstream New Zealand. We never had bad rulings like this out of the Privy Council.

  2. Leave it at 18 years there is far too much intimidation going on in racist comments and groups trying to divide this country New Zealand 🇳🇿. Why are certain people trying to force their agenda on racists demands on others 🙄. Coming together joke your dividing New Zealanders. Respect 🙏 others that’s a democracy.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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