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I am pleased to announce 17 year old Waikato Diocesan School student Harper Smith as my Youth MP for Waikato.

Youth Parliament was first held in 1994 to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the lowering of the voting age to 18. In 1995 Cabinet invited the then Minister of Youth Affairs to hold a Youth Parliament every Parliamentary term. Youth Parliament is a fantastic opportunity for any young person who has a keen interest in the challenges and opportunities facing New Zealanders, of course, it helps that Harper has an interest in politics and public speaking.

Harper is clearly passionate about politics, and she has shown a great deal of insight into the challenges facing youth in the electorate. For the last two years she has participated in the New Zealand Model United Nations, winning the Maori Pacifica Scholarship in both years, and speaking on the Security Council this year. Harper is an accomplished orator, having won several awards for her debating.

Harper’s tenure will run across six months and will see her involved in delivering projects, engaging with me as the elected MP, as well as connecting with her peers to understand their views on topics to be discussed at the two-day Youth Parliament event in July. At the Youth Parliament, all of the young people who are selected will learn about parliamentary and government decision making processes through participating in general and mock legislative debates, sitting on mock select committees and asking parliamentary questions of Ministers.

This will be the ninth New Zealand Youth Parliament to take place, and is a richly rewarding programme providing an opportunity to hear from young people from around New Zealand on what is important to them, and for Youth MPs to actively work on topics and issues they are passionate about. I have no doubt Harper will be a wonderful representative for our electorate, and I am very much looking forward to our working together in 2019!

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