Skip to main content

Otago University Workshop 25 March 2021

Active Citizenship

Students are busy people juggling papers, extra curriculars, while trying to live and be social so staying up to date with the current issues needs to be a priority.

For many it’s a privilege for politics to be a priority and to have space and time to think about it. There was no education about what is a policy, how voting works. So people can just lean towards voting for who their parents did.

Civics education is needed from 5 years old. We need conversations, story telling, sharing values and mock voting. Get kids to put their hands up and vote for things. This can help with foundational active citizenship.

Use social media effectively. People flick through Instagram feed quickly and if it doesn’t grab your attention you switch off. Needs to be aesthetic. Same with websites, it needs to take three clicks to find what you’re looking for.

Government could utilize Instagram polls. Chloe Swarbrick uses Instagram live, polls, stories really well. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does tours around government buildings in the US. Politicians could do a lot more to show their human side. Jacinda does it quite well too. They could so this in regards to the vaccine too.

Have Instagram stories with a day in the life of a politician, they could do it in the back seat of their uber. And there needs to be a day in the life of officials working in the departments or CEs of departments, what’s behind the role? There are a lot of visual learners that this would work for. Trust will increase much more if people can see something not just what they hear.

Government needs to capitalize on social media to inform the public. Look at shityoushouldcareabout on Instagram they do it so effectively and have young people engaged. Post update of what happened today. Short video, doco, or just quotes. Meet generations where they’re going.

COVID Instagram was the government example that worked. Unite against COVID 19 was an effective message, you can no longer avoid social media.

Grads have it drilled in that getting Linked In is essential. If public servants can post on Linked In they can make a short snappy post on Instagram etc.

You can use humour on Instagram. Election memes that were from other accounts were super engaging and funny.

Rito, Parliaments youth advisory group, looks like a good voice on behalf of govt for youth.

People have 6 second attention spans. Engagement needs to be easy, accessible and have impact.

OUSA political representative is working with electoral commission to get students to vote. Last year they had really successful voting registration vibes with free dumplings.

Dunedin City Council 10 year plan will also get this kind of engagement going. IPADS can be used to show key things and the design of the 10 year plan is really easy to understand and a cool vintage look with makes people more interested. For example the council seeking feedback on bins and green waste was broken down really visually.

There is an opportunity to get students associations across the country involved. There is NZUSA president meet ups.

If I was working in construction, I’ll probably have Instagram or facebook and then I could see an update, if CEs posted high level things they were working on, that the ministry is working on something relevant to my life.

Dunedin is so detached from Wellington which makes it harder to engage.

We hear from embassy overseas representatives at Uni more than local government. It’s important to engage with local people.

Dunedin City Council Youth Action Committee was a great idea, especially the idea to work alongside the council but it ended. You need to actually have a voice and some influence. Groups like that need to be invited into important discussions and really utilized.

We should have more help for citizens to make good choices. In the Netherlands they have bikes for hire, free public transport if you’re a student. You could live well even on a budget.

Our country is a risk of falling behind. We need to look at what works for inspiration. Look at the highest rated places and what people do.

Students are an interesting group to engage with. Most have no money while at uni but they know it’ll hopefully end if they get one of their grad jobs. Different than the usual poverty cycle. University students are currently also the future of government, of big corporates but often they’re treated like children. Their contribution should be taken seriously, they’re currently studying the most cutting edge information, they have time and access to contribute great thinking.

Students who are studying public law, politics etc should be engaged with or politicians, government officials tied in to talk to them.

For lower socio economic groups its hard to care, so many are disengaged.

Government should use Tiktok, young people are already there, it’s accessible. It sends a message that we value you enough to keep you in the loop. People should be constantly involved in a representative democracy, not just every 3 years.

Ministry of Education could do more on Instagram around civics education. Use stickers, Instagram stories, no long submission, instead make it easy and accessible. Doesn’t have to be deep and meaningful. 


Groups come to central government’s main offices like Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment to have a meeting which can be uncomfortable. It can be intimidating for someone to go to a white boardroom with a whiteboard and white people as a minority group.

Government should be going out to marae, towns and other cities more to talk to people about their lived experiences so they’re not stressed to be out of their comfort zone.

Government isn’t doing enough consultation with stakeholders. They know they need to but no one initiates it in some cases.

Policy will be better if you actually engage in a way that suits people and see what they care about.

Local government could be a lot more responsive. I received no reply to my enquiry not even a token thank you, you could at least have an email saying thank you we will look into this for the public.

OUSA has emailed the Dunedin City Council transport team about a pedestrian needed outside the OUSA building. There was no response.

Ministers have also been unresponsive.

Government needs to employee more people. They should be making regional hubs, genuine ones. It would make going to engage with groups easier.

Lecturer Janine Hayward engages students well. Pamphlets can even be effective, there was one on the end of life and cannabis referendums handed put out in a lecture and hundreds were taken by students by the end. Government needs to do more of this simple communications.

Have a local library, regional hub of all things government.

Having colleagues in different locations is good and you can work from home in different locations now. Even overseas colleagues are okay.

All constituents should feel welcome.

OUSA political representative is now gathering students thoughts and writing submissions on behalf on the student population. They work with POLSA, the Māori and Pasifika student associations. The submission process as a whole is inaccessible without a legal background. Can there be more examples of what a good one looks like with statements.

Oral submissions are only on the back of written submissions. You should at least record them and let others watch them whenever. For example others could’ve watched oral submissions on student accomodation enquiry.

It’s also hard for people to meet the requirements to give submissions. 9-5 Monday to Friday is hard. It would be good to provide opportunities to engage with government in the weekend.

Politicians need to think about how they present themselves to the public. Armored vehicles are used when they don’t need to be. If they’re extremely busy on the visit, students are even happy to walk and talk, it can be informal. Adapt to the culture your engaging with.

David Seymour does actually use ubers, walk around and openly chat, go to the pub. More politicians should remove this veil. If you ask someone on the west coast who some politicians are they should be able to give you answer but currently engagement is wellington focused.


Do more work to make local government more open.

Because students aren’t seeing politicians they aren’t listening to them. Many are disillusioned and disengaged. Last year was an anomaly.

You see politicians round the elections and in the two years afterwards they disappear.

COVID communications had press releases and instagrams at the same time which was great.

Ministers could share a weekly wrap up of the high level things they’re working on right now. Chief Executives could also do it, 5 or 6 things top of mind each week or 1 sentence summary about what things are looking like at the moment would really help. Use a public platform. A video less than 20 seconds is also a great way to be viewed by the masses.

People don’t know there is important work going on around modern day slavery. New Zealand doesn’t have a government Instagram that could update people. Australia has one. INida has one with constant Instagram stories.