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Part 5: The tide will turn if floater voters make enough waves

by Disabled Persons Assembly New Zealand

This is the last of the Disabled Persons Assembly’s (DPA’s) election blogs, and includes an overview of disabled people’s political participation, related questions for candidates, and a wrap up. 

For marginalised groups everywhere, increasing participation and achievement in political life usually precedes an increase in participation and achievement in economic and social life. Political tides turn when floater voters create waves and refuse to remain becalmed.

Over a quarter of New Zealand’s voting age population are disabled people, and yet we are extremely under-represented in Parliament, the ‘House of Representatives’. DPA eagerly awaits parties’ commitments to having disabled people as candidates high up on party lists.  ‘Nothing about us without us’ is an essential way of working on disability issues and inclusion, and it is a way to ensure that we leave no one behind in our society. 

In the past, parties entering coalition agreements have made gains for disabled people through law changes and resource commitments.

These were our questions:

What is your experience of disability or the disability community?

What will you do to ensure disabled people are better represented in the House of Representatives?

How will you and your party actively involve disabled people, including disabled children, in your work?

If you are elected, will you ensure your office and all meetings, information and communication are accessible to all your disabled constituents?

If your party negotiates a coalition deal, what of the DPA priority issues will you strongly negotiate on and advance?

Our comparative assessment on representational issues: the Greens do well on more issues.  The parliamentary Green Party, through Mojo Mathers, is the only one where disabled people are not invisible.

The Greens do better overall in DPA’s priority areas. However, the Greens' health policy, which supports legalised assisted dying, is a controversial topic in the disability community. The Greens appear to recognise the potentially serious consequences of legalising assisted dying for disabled people (and the potential flow-on effects on societal attitudes towards disabled people) and their policy promotes disability awareness to mitigate some of those concerns. While awareness raising is positive, some disabled voters may decide it is not enough and vote against the Greens solely on this issue.

ACT also has the legalisation of assisted dying as a priority, but do not appear to have given much consideration to its effect on attitudes towards disabled people.  This, and other bio-ethical issues such as selective ante-natal screening on the basis of disability, may over time increasingly shape floater voter choices.

The Māori Party have a great track record across most priority issues for a small party.  Labour has been a leader in the past, but in current policy rhetoric “encourage”  rather than “commit“ predominates and it suggests disabled people have dropped lower down their priority agenda.  National hasn’t given disabled people much priority in its last three terms, although there has been some good work done around preparing for disability support transformation. NZ First policies include a lot of promising rhetoric, but in government or opposition their focus has historically been limited to older disabled people.

On our assessment on the limited information available on parties’ policies on DPA’s priority issues, the Green, Māori, and Labour parties come out better overall, with NZ First next. Perhaps that’s a signal for disabled floater voters to disrupt the calm of the harbour, make the waves that generate a turning tide, with the current flowing centre left.


 The Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) is a pan-disability disabled people's organisation that works to realise an equitable society, where all disabled people are able to direct their own lives. DPA works to improve social indicators for disabled people and for disabled people to be recognised as valued members of society. DPA and its members work with the wider disability community, other DPOs, government agencies, service providers, international disability organisations, and the public by:

  • telling our stories and identifying systemic barriers
  • developing and advocating for solutions
  • celebrating innovation and good practice.

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