Rangatahi voice at last

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Rangatahi will finally have a voice in local government after Gisborne District Council yesterday decided to appoint Tairawhiti Youth Voice as a youth council. This follows a long campaign by youth workers, who view the decision as a “step in the right direction”.

Spokesman Manu Caddie said work towards a youth council started in earnest about five years ago, when it was recommended in the council’s youth development strategy. But an earlier effort in which councilors adopted a “buddy” system with young people was regarded by those involved as a token gesture and soon foundered for lack of enthusiasm.

In 2004 the council commissioned a report on how to better structure youth involvement, but then shelved the report’s recommendations, said Mr Caddie. Mr Caddie and Tairawhiti Youth Voice member Vaughan Smith were both “stoked” with yesterday’s decision. “This takes our relationship to the next level and will help us to be more effective,” said Mr Smith.

It’s fantastic to know that the council wants to hear our voice and it was exciting to feel that the councillors really care about the needs of young people in Tairawhiti. There’s still a lot more work that needs to be done to flesh out our relationship with the council. What you get out is always linked to what you put in, but I think we can do this really efficiently.

Young people have a habit of coming up with creative, effective solutions and that’s what we’re all looking for.”

Mr Caddie said there were a lot of other mechanisms the young people were keen to explore for a greater involvement in the community’s decision-making processes.  But this was an important first step, he said.  Most councillors supported the new proposal, although some had reservations about how it would be serviced.

Pat Seymour said while she supported the concept, there was nothing to say how the council was going to be serviced. She was not criticising Tairawhiti Youth Voice, the council had failed to deliver.  Community planning and development manager Nedine Thatcher said she had not wished to pre-empt what was going to happen at this stage. Staff would now work on terms of reference for the youth council.

Atareta Poananga said this should have been done years ago. There should be a youthful voice, not just “us oldies”. There were a lot of issues affecting Maori for the youth council to consider.  Nona Aston said the young people deserved their place in the sun. They would be the business people, parents and councillors of the future.

Gisborne had a huge population of young people and their input was needed, said Mrs Aston.

Kia ora to John Jones and Marianne Gillingham for this article.

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