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Youth Council puts case for Thorp's Bush improvements

October 28th, 2015
[by David Armstrong]

A comprehensive report on attitudes to Thorp's Bush, and a plan for its future, was presented to the Motueka Community Board yesterday by the Motueka Youth Council.

The report, which received high praise from all board members, was the culmination of nearly 18 months of investigation and analysis by the young people following a $20,000 grant last year by the Ministry of Youth Development (see our earlier story).

The report was presented by five of the Youth Council members, and summed up by Brent Maru who with Cr Peter Canton has supported the process. (Also see added note below.)

The Youth Council, which is chosen each year from across all ages of students at Motueka High School, researched the perceived problems associated with Thorp's Bush, surveying residents living near the bush as well as students and then comparing those perceptions with the reality.

Community engagement included a barbecue and movie night in the reserve, plus lots of informal peer discussions with young people who frequented the area. An impressive total of 479 people took part in the survey over five months.

Following the analysis of their findings, they engaged the services of a landscape architect, Vista Design, to draw up a development plan (see below). Of the $20,000 grant, there is still $10,000 left to begin work on the landscaping work.

This balance of funds has been donated by the Youth Council to the Motueka Community Board, and the young people hoped that this would be used as leverage for a potential $50,000 development project, working with TDC and Keep Motueka Beautiful.

Of great relief to those who feared proposals to "develop" the ecologically sensitive bush itself (one of the only three remaining such areas in the Tasman district), they researchers heard that strong message and will work only on the family/picnic area at the Woodland Avenue end.

This decision was backed up by the most important finding - that the perception of the bush being a place with major issues around alcohol and drug use "is simply not true".

"The project has clearly shown that perception is far greater than fact," the report says. "And whilst we accept that there is an issue, this is a small minority."

The statistics showed that "whilst 33% of those surveyed believe drugs are a key issue ... only 8% have ever seen or experienced it".

"Similarly the perception that 75.2% of activities [in the bush] are negative, compared to actual experiences [that] show that 53% of experiences are actually positive."

They also reported that for many of the "hard to reach" youth, they "hang out at Thorp's Bush" not to cause trouble but because they could access wi-fi from there and it was close to McDonalds and KFC.

The Youth Council told the community board that Thorp's Bush generally means very little to most youth, but they would like to see it become a hub for the town.

The concept plan looks only at the western picnic area, and proposes an inviting and attractive entrance at the corner near the public toilets, along with some more lighting and openness, seats and picnic tables and a proper connection to the side entrance to the supermarket.

Following the presentation, most community board members praised the young team and thanked them for advising that the usable recreation area does not detract from its key environmental and historical purpose as a remnant of lowland podocarp hardwood forest.

Cr Peter Canton said it was amazing how much they young people had done for $10,000. "You guys ought to work for Council," he quipped.

In summing up, Brent Maru said he hoped that community board members could see this as part of a justification for having youth representation or attendance at board meetings.

The board agreed to discuss at its next meeting in six weeks how to progress the project.


Comment by Brent Maru:
[Posted 30 October 2015]

Thanks David for your summary of the great work by the Tasman Youth Council, but the team that should be recognised over me are Josie Bisley and Jody Maru who worked alongside this project with the youth councillors. I just assisted them with different components and helped to workshop the report outcomes. Also thanks to Grant Henry, NZ Police and Cr Peter Canton for their involvement.

A very good positive youth project by some great young people. And we have had some great discussion around the next steps.

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