Chloe is young, idealistic, genuine and ambitious. A visionary politician and entrepreneur; she ran for Auckland Mayor, joined the New Zealand Green Party and opened a donut shop, all within the last year. We meet Chloe in the suburban oasis next to her cafe and gallery, Olly, to discuss her policies and the future of New Zealand.

Story photographed by Greta Van Der Star.

Kowtow Essay Chloe

Who or what inspires you?

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.

What skill would you like to learn?

I would love to be able to speak Te Reo Māori.

What keeps you up at night?

In terms of activity, it would be reading. In terms of thoughts, it's the consistent calculation of ways to make things better.

How do you express kindness everyday?

It's rather banal, but I make a conscious effort to use my manners always. I love saying good morning to my bus driver.

What does sustainability mean to you?

Recognising that Earth is our home, and that if you burn down your house, you no longer have a place to live.

Metaphor aside, sustainability is recognising that unlimited material growth is impossible. It's a holistic look at our place on and contribution to the planet and each other.

Kowtow Essay Chloe

What gave you the drive to get into politics at such a young age?

I kind of fell into it. My background is pretty eclectic. I studied Philosophy and Law, and I've mostly dabbled in art, journalism and business.

I spent four odd years interviewing politicians, activists, academics and interesting folks on my show at bFM. I came to specialise as a journo in politics and intellectual property, and as such became the go-to during the oddity that was 2014's general election, for the most part on GCSB/Five Eyes revelations. I'll never forget John Key promising time and time again that our spy agency was not collecting meta data on New Zealand citizens. When it was found out that they were, he stood up in front of a press conference and said New Zealanders cared more about snapper. It was in the midst of the national debate on fishing quotas, and sure, that was important, but what got me is that he was right. For all that I banged on about this diversion tactic, and dug deeper in to the things citizens needed to know to hold our government accountable, the more I found that the mainstream didn't really care.

Our government of the past 9 years has bred a culture of complacency towards politics and policy by consistently dumbing down the conversation. Meanwhile, people are struggling in their day to day and don't have the time, resource or headspace to concern themselves with what has become the privileged game of politics. Then you've got the fact that decades of neoliberal reform has individualised responsibility and blame – communities are rare nowadays, and when you're struggling, you feel isolated and blame yourself, in line with the ideology of our adoption of the faux American Dream. What gets to me the most in the midst of all that is that the people who have the most to gain by voting – our poorest and most vulnerable – are the least likely to vote.

Politicians are regarded as some of the least trusted people in Aotearoa, and it just breeds this really gross cyclical lack of expectation, in turn maintaining the status quo, and concentration and perpetuation of power in the hands of the already rich and powerful.

I'm young and idealistic – and some would say naive – enough to believe that it doesn't have to be this way. I believe in a government that works for and is accountable to the people it purports to serve and represent. I believe in a well-funded fourth estate. I know that we can act on climate change, and that no man, woman or child has to go without food or a roof over their head in this country.

I believe a key part of instituting these changes lies in constitutional reform.

Kowtow Essay Chloe

What is your biggest focus in the future of New Zealand?

Social justice and climate action. You can't disentangle the two. The biggest polluters are among the richest – whether we're talking countries or individuals. The countries and individuals dealing with the brunt of climate change are the most vulnerable – whether we're talking islands sinking into the Pacific, or families in West Auckland coping with incessant flooding.

In Aotearoa New Zealand, the rich and powerful are plowing and desecrating our limited natural resources to line their pockets, often creating pollution that taxpayers foot the bill to clean up. That's privatising profit and socialising cost, which is not only ridiculous, but also diverting crucial financial resource from the likes of tackling homelessness, funding mental health services and addressing child poverty.

If our country were to take climate action, we wouldn't be plummeted into this scary dystopian world of the Flintstones, as certain people invested in the status quo would have you believe. We'd be looking at well-designed cities filled with warm, dry homes; the rebuilding of communities as people no longer work to the bone for productivity for productivity's sake, and growth for the sake of growth; connectivity in the form of fast, clean and efficient public transport. It's funny such things are painted as 'fringe'.

Kowtow Essay Chloe

What are your thoughts on lowering the voting age in New Zealand?

The argument for lowering the voting age really appeals to me. It's basically that if you're getting people involved with and engaged in democracy while they're still at school, they're inclined to discuss it with their teachers and peers, and around the dinner table at home, and therefore more inclined to make an informed decision on voting – in tandem with taking into account that research demonstrates that when young people vote, they're more inclined to keep voting throughout their lives.

In the political and educational context of Aotearoa, however, I think lowering the voting age without implementing civics education is perhaps largely missing the underlying point. Studies on New Zealanders show that one of the major reasons people currently don't vote is a lack of understanding on what they're voting for, who they're voting for, and how our Parliamentary system works. If we want a functioning democracy, people have to know their country's history, political structure and climate. It's long term thinking, but to produce politically active citizens, the best and fairest shot we have is to implement civics education in schools.

Kowtow Essay Chloe

If you weren’t running in this year’s general election, what would you be doing?

Definitely dedicating more time to the things I'm currently doing in my spare time. More hands-on deck at Olly, the gallery and donut shop run by Alex, Bryan and I; organising more community events, pop-ups and gigs; reading more books, drinking more peppermint tea.

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