Across Hamilton East can be seen the array of red and blue signs for National’s David Bennett and Labour’s Jamie Strange, both aiming to be re-elected to Parliament.
However, among the candidates they are up against is the defiant Rimu Bhooi, who says she is not just representing the Green Party, but all the diverse cultures and people across Hamilton.
Bhooi, 20, is a University of Waikato student, studying language and English creative writing, in the hopes of one day becoming a teacher. She is a former Hillcrest High School student and served as head girl in 2018.
And while studying full time is already a tough task, Bhooi has taken on representing the Green Party in the upcoming election, along with representing the many students and people of different ethnicities and disabilities that she says feel the two major parties are not doing enough of.
“This is such a diverse electorate and I have seen it in the eight years that I’ve lived here. In terms of voting they are quite conservative but as a left-leaning woman of colour the representatives were pretty abysmal for a person with my needs,” Bhooi said.
“I knew that there was something missing for my friends, my flatmates and colleagues at university. Someone who would stand up for these needs and go on the record, and I didn’t see any of this in our representatives.”
Bhooi said there was an issue around voting in youth numbers, however that was not down to youth being disinterested, rather than there wasn’t a good option to vote for.
As a renter herself, Bhooi said one of the key issues she was keen on tackling was the rent and housing crisis in the country.
“Renters do not have the rights they need, the healthy homes act was such a big win for renters’ rights and the first step in what we need. I know how frustrating it can be to hear about landlords screwing over the renters but it’s the truth and we need to do so much more.”
Bhooi said the Universal Income proposed by the Green Party would help those students and others struggling financially continue to be able to put food on the table, but that money should not be used on rising rent prices.
“It has been really disappointing to see that flatting is some awful rite of passage that young Kiwis have to go through when it should be a welcoming introduction into the community where we can make a contribution with our jobs to the society around us.”
Bhooi said having a secure and healthy home can also lead to better mental health.
“You need to have those basic needs met such as food, water and shelter to have a meaningful impact on your life and the lives of other people around you, and I have seen it around me with people struggling to get rental properties and then struggling to keep them when meeting bills and all those inspections, it’s quite disheartening.
“We want to make sure renters have those healthy standards.
“I’m running because I don’t think my representatives would represent me, I’ve seen David Bennett launch a petition against affordable housing that myself and my peers would live in.
“On the other hand we have an MP in Jamie Strange from a progressive party in Labour who has voted against my basic human rights as a woman, he voted against abortion law reform and is also pretty conservative when it comes to LGBT rights, so it is quite difficult to come up against two candidates like that who essentially argue against the needs of people like me, but that also encourages me that there is work to be done.”
Bhooi said the most exciting policy the Greens are campaigning on is their transport policy.
“We want to be moving to hybrid electric vehicles but the thing that really excites me is rapid intercity rail connecting Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and the cities around them.
“That will make such a difference in the Waikato and we also need to focus on some of the smaller towns in our regions as well to make sure they have a good connection for growth.”
Bhooi also said clearing up the country’s waterways was a vital task for New Zealand.
“We have the Waikato River right on our doorstep, it is such a beautiful awa and incredible aspect of Hamilton and I don’t think it has been given the care and respect it deserves,” Bhooi said.
“The first year of high school I told my friends that I swam in the river and they were just shocked and told me it wasn’t clean and it was just disappointing for me.”
Bhooi said that after the elections she plans to take a small break before returning to summer school and continuing to advocate for the Green Party.