Southland’s youngest council candidate undeterred by online hate

Nightcap woman Gemma Marnane is running for a seat on Southland District Council.

Kavinda Herath/Stuff

Nightcap woman Gemma Marnane is running for a seat on Southland District Council.

Southland’s youngest council candidate isn’t afraid to stand up for what she believes in, even when criticism comes from anonymous online commentators.

Insults about her age, gender and ideology did not deter 21-year-old Gemma Marnane from running for a seat on the Southland District Council.

An environmentalist and former Southland District Youth Councilor, Marnane has raised her hand for the council and a place on the Wallace Takitimu Community Council. She is Southland’s youngest contestant and one of the youngest in the country.

The Nightcaps woman works as a volunteer for Forest & Bird, which earlier this year took the council to court over an exploration permit it had with a coal company. This judicial review decision has not yet been rendered.

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Gemma Marnane has a degree in journalism, is an activist and lobbyist for environmental causes and is running for local elections.

Kavinda Herath/Stuff

Gemma Marnane has a degree in journalism, is an activist and lobbyist for environmental causes and is running for local elections.

Marnane expressed his opposition to coal. The granting of the exploration permit convinced her to pursue a degree in journalism remotely and to move. She wants to better understand how governments and councils make decisions, which is why she is running for office this year.

“I feel like I bring a lot of passion and ambition. It reflects who I am and not my age.

However, social cohesion rather than environmentalism was Marnane’s primary motivation for running for the council.

She wants to inspire young people to stay in the Southland and others to move to the area by supporting sustainable industries.

Marnane wanted more people to appreciate councils setting long-term agendas, and if elected, she hoped young people seeing her in elected office would inspire them to run.

She said derogatory and anonymous messages about her age, gender and appearance were sent to her because of her opposition to anthrax; major industry for Ohai and Nightcaps.

Marnane said people swore at her as they moved on to Nightcaps, again she believed because of her opposition to smut. These people wanted to prevent him from speaking out and gaining leadership, she said.

“It’s hard because when there’s all these comments about how you look it’s like, why would people choose to attack me, I’d rather just discuss the issues.”

Marnane agreed it was fair to say she wasn’t too popular in town. However, after a recent contestants meeting, Marnane said a member of the public told her she was “standing like a sore thumb”. In the right direction”.

Marnane was optimistic about being elected, but no matter what, she would continue to lobby and campaign for environmental causes.

Jett Groshinski, 19, who is running for mayor of Dunedin and Kritika Selach, 18, who is running for local council in Papakura, are other young candidates for the local body across the country.

Kāpiti Coast District Councilor Sophie Handford, 21, is seeking re-election, as is Rotorua Lakes Councilor Fisher Wang, also 21.

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