Otago Uni student Jett Groshinski is the first student to put his hand up for this year’s local body elections. He’s gunning for a spot on the Dunedin City Council (DCC), and is aiming for a chance to wear the Mayoral chains, too.
The PPE (Philosophy/Politics/Economics) and Finance conjoint student has been looking to run for a spot on the DCC since 2021, before confirming his move last summer. As somebody who’s lived in Dunedin since he was 13 and “personally loves Dunedin”, he told Critic Te Arohi that his primary motivation for standing in local elections was to ensure that “students have a voice”. He said that “There’s no representation for students right now on the DCC… the youngest person on the Council right now is the Mayor.” Mayor Aaron Hawkins, for the record, is a whopping 38 years old - basically a dinosaur.
Jett said that, by running for Council and Mayoral positions, he wants to “be in a place where I can make meaningful change in Dunedin. Even if I don’t see that change immediately… [I want it to be] the kind of place I want my [younger] sisters to grow up in.” He said this would help “make sure everyone is being represented and respected”. Right now, he says students feel like “they don’t really get a say in local politics”. Even the few students who somehow end up on DCC committees, he said, “feel unheard. They don’t feel they have a voice.”
Jett told Critic Te Arohi about his main policy priorities. Firstly, he wants to try and sort Dunedin’s transportation woes. He cited a shortage of parking spaces as an issue – but was also a big fan of improving Dunedin’s bus system, including introducing free fares. “The DCC should take control of buses from the Otago Regional Council (ORC),” he said, but added that they would probably need to work and convince the ORC to give up control. “There are bus routes which don’t make sense,” he said, telling us about buses going down busy streets and, on multiple occasions, coming close to hitting students.
He also wants to promote “communities working together”, saying that the student-dominated North D often feels “completely separate” to the rest of Dunedin. He’s hoping to organise more events that can help bridge the gap. Jett said that currently, “the rest of Dunedin often [doesn’t] see the good parts of students… only the couch-burnings.” Critic, for one, would be quietly impressed by a couch burning so bright it could be seen from across town.
Jett will be going all in with his council run this semester, saying that “it will be his top priority” while he drops his Uni workload down to two papers. He’s planning to run a campaign heavy on door-knocking and face-to-face meetings, saying he’s focusing on “talking directly to a lot of students”. He isn’t receiving any external funding for the campaign, either, saying everything he’s spending is coming from his own pocket.
He’s ultimately hoping that his run for the DCC and the Mayoral chains will spur more students to get engaged in local politics. “Students feel like they’re just passing through, and so they often don’t bother to register and vote,” he says. According to Jett, part of the problem is not knowing how to do it, but it is also about students not feeling represented on the DCC. Jett believes that seeing a student run for local Government could change things. “Even if you don’t vote for me, having your say is important,” he said.