This guest blog has been contributed by an external author. Opinions and positions expressed in the post are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Seed Waikato.
Tēnā koutou katoa. Ko Hannah Huggan toku ingoa.
Over the past two months, I have been working with five other high school students in the Waikato to establish a Waikato Regional Youth Council. Within a democracy, the vote plays a huge role in how we, as a citizenry, are listened to within society; but all of us working to establish a youth council are unable to vote. We are globally witnessing an absence of youth voice within decision-making, especially about issues young people care about. This is why we are working hard to ensure we have autonomy over the future we want to see.
Our story begins when we met at the climate challenge, a conference for youth to help create action and navigate our climate crisis. While at the conference, we decided we need to create change for the Waikato Region. We are currently researching other successful youth councils and building our network to ensure success. In doing so, we hope to inform the general public on what we want to achieve, issues we care about, and the importance of local politics to ensure this year’s local elections create a council willing to support what we are doing.
Through meeting at a climate conference, we are all passionate about climate action. By establishing a youth council we hope to effect change on how the Waikato Region can reduce their emissions and supporting those disproportionately affected by climate-related events, including our Māori and Pasifika communities. As a collective we recognize the threat posed by the climate crisis to our future and current state of living. We see the youth voice in the discussion as critical. We will be disproportionately affected as we move forward into a future affected by ecological breakdown.
Another issue we wish to address is infrastructure within the Waikato area. We wish to aid the Waikato Regional Council on strategic planning to ensure public transport, cyclists, and pedestrians are prioritised. Young people of today are looking for other means of transportation and we believe we must see improvement within our current system.
As a collective, we recognise the importance of local politics but understand education around local councils has not led to this understanding. There is confusion surrounding the difference between various local councils, what councillors can change within our local area, and how the public can get involved. This is especially reflected within voter turnout. We wish to see more engagement from the community within local politics, educate the general public on issues facing the Waikato region, and ensuring reports released by the local council are easy to access and understand.
Of course the issues we care about are not limited to those already discussed. We hope to achieve involvement within the council through assisting decision making and strategic planning. This is to include our opinions surrounding our community because when decisions are being made everyone needs a seat at the table. We believe that the youth are in need of a platform to voice their opinion and feel empowered to ignite change.
Local politics are hugely important to our everyday life. Infrastructure, community management, and waste management are all dictated by our local councils. We need to make sure that those within our council buildings best represent our community and wish to work for the betterment of others and our surrounding environment. This year is an election year, we need to elect candidates who wish to improve the Waikato Region for everyone and are willing to support what we wish to achieve.