‘It’s crucial we listen to the voice of our youth’: mayoral view

Tom Campbell, Invercargill Deputy Mayor
Tom Campbell, Invercargill Deputy Mayor
Last week, I had the pleasure of meeting the Invercargill City Youth Council and presenting service badges to new members.

I was struck by the diversity around the table, which was a welcome reminder of how multicultural the tapestry of our city has become.

What was very obvious from discussions was that every young person present shared the same enthusiasm and eagerness to play their part in shaping the future of Invercargill.

The activities of our youth council often fly under the radar, but it plays an increasingly important role in council decision-making when we are considering matters that affect young people in our city.

The group is made up of up to 25 youths, aged between 12 and 24, who meet formally once a month and run projects in-between.

Members learn about governance and democracy, especially local government, debate issues relevant to them, and hopefully make new friends and have fun!

Numerous decisions made at a council level have an impact on not just the following year, but for many years — and often decades (think climate change or central city revitalisation) — to come.

It’s crucial we listen to the voice of our youth, who realistically are going to feel the impacts of those decisions more than perhaps some older councillors will.

Last year, council asked members of the youth council to think about three key issues where we especially wanted their perspective and advice to help us develop policy: climate change, the voting age, and vaping.

In each case they came to council well-prepared, and having collected the thoughts of their peers.

They presented their views with confidence. Those views were moderate, balanced, and well researched, and they were certainly helpful to council.

The youth council also has an open invitation to present to councillors on any matter they want to lobby us about.

Youth councils have been established in many countries during the past 20 years, and they are plentiful throughout New Zealand.

Unlike organisations such as the Scouts, youth councils are not part of a formal network, but over time their purpose tends to have been defined along similar lines: they are spaces to learn, contribute to the wider community, and have fun with peers while doing so.

Towards the end of each year, Invercargill City Council advertises for applications for its youth council and successful candidates are chosen through an interview process.

If you know of a young person who might fit the bill, I’d highly encourage you to point them in the youth council’s direction.

■Find out more at www.icc.govt.nz