I always planned on getting in touch with local culture on some level when I decided to take an internship in New Zealand. I’ve lived and worked in countries where understanding that culture involves learning a new language, different systems, and social norms. I had no idea how that experience would play out going to a country where English is the native language. Relations with locals was not only a priority of mine personally but a demand of my job in general.
The hullabaloo for elections in New Zealand does not even compare to that of the two-year in advance- advertise-forever American campaign. An effective local campaign has an idea of what’s concerning the diverse array of individuals that inhabit it and know what events will attract locals.
Fortunately for me, the campaign run in Maungakiekie (the electorate in Auckland I oversaw) was run based on these grounds and always looking to improve. Priyanca, the candidate running for the Labour party in Maungakiekie not only is running to represent the district but grew up there for part of her life. As an Indian New Zealander, she understands the culture and community of a large percentage of her electorate. Since 2006 there has been a 43% increase in the number of Indians moving to Maungakiekie. The electorate itself is also diverse as it is approximately 10% Māori, 14% Pacific Islander and 23% Asian.
Having spent several times a week in my electorate knocking on doors and speaking with people, it was clear to me that they want to see a change in government. Many of them, even when they didn’t support the Labour Party were passionate about seeing more affordable housing. I spoke with people whose ages ranged from 18 years old to 80 years old and all of them understood the difficulty that Aucklanders faced in trying to find a place to live. This issue is so prevalent as houses average at a price of 1,000,000 NZD. The National government has also been responsible for the re-allocation of state houses after individuals start making minimum wage, creating more of a shortage. Over 98% of the time I encountered locals who were exceptionally friendly and willing to open their doors. Many times I was invited in to explain why it was I came from the US to work for the Labour Party. I never had a door slammed in my face and each local was honest in their political beliefs and in letting me know whether they were concerned about community safety, transportation, or mental health in their communities. Their kindness and openness to new ideas even when they didn’t personally support them was refreshing in a world of walls and muting.
I couldn’t have had a closer experience with locals, and I was proud to inform them of the policies the Labour Party stood behind that aim to improve the lives of people like them; average, every-day, working New Zealanders.