Maya McNeill takes her passion for debating big issues such as abortion and euthanasia with her family and friends all the way to Parliament.
Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown has chosen the 17-year-old student from Elim Christian College to represent the electorate as the youth MP for 2022.
The two-day Youth Parliament is held every three years in Wellington and gives young Kiwis the chance to learn about New Zealand democracy.
It runs from July 19 to 20, and the full term for young MPs runs from March 1 to August 31.
The ambitious young people who will participate will advocate for their community, debate issues and laws, sit on select committees and pose questions to their peers in the Debating Chamber of Parliament.
Maya, who is in grade 13, also sits on the Howick Youth Council.
She says the role sparked her passion for politics and her desire to apply to become a youth MP.
“My dad also likes to talk politics and bring it to dinnertime family discussions.
“My school principal offered me this opportunity, I read about it and did some research.
“I think it will take me out of my comfort zone. It’s already the case.
Maya’s main political interests are in the areas of youth mental health and budgeting and finance.
“Especially in this pandemic time, mental health has been a huge issue,” she says.
“It put a lot of pressure on the young people.
“We have been isolated from our friends [due to Covid] and online school is not a sufficient replacement.
“People have lost that human connection.”
She wants more to be done to educate young people to take control of their finances.
“Minimum wage is decently high right now and I have a student job,” Maya says.
“I see people spending all their money on Uber Eats and having a big mentality about [payment method] Pay afterwards, so don’t buy stuff with their own money but with money they don’t have.
“There are some pretty simple ways to start saving.
“The housing market is crazy and if we start putting money aside every week, we could have a much brighter future in terms of housing and student loans.”
Brown says he will show Maya what it’s like to do her job, including having her spend time at her Pakuranga election office.
“I will bring her here at some point so she can see what I do when I meet constituents and talk about different issues.
“I hope she will be exposed to what it is like to be an MP by traveling to Wellington to see how Parliament works but also to see what an MP does in the electorate.”
Brown encourages local youth to take advantage of opportunities to get involved in community issues.
“It’s not the only way to work with young people all over Pakuranga and it’s not the only opportunity young people have to serve the community.
“Maya showed that by being a member of the Howick Youth Council and taking this opportunity.
“Seizing the opportunities that come your way makes you a richer person and a better person.
“We need young people to come forward and tell us very clearly what is important to them.”