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Plans for youth voice at TDC, Community Board

January 10th, 2017
[by David Armstrong]

Plans are afoot for the views of teenagers to be heard as of right around the tables of both Tasman District Council and the Motueka Community Board.

Three Motueka leaders are working with Council liaison staff to prepare a recommendation to go to the next full Council meeting to give one or more youth representatives at least speaking rights at Council.

Community Board chairman Brent Maru will also ask board members to agree to this happening locally.

Brent along with Councillor Peter Canton and board member Claire Hutt have been asked to work with TDC's Tasman Youth Council coordinator Claire Webster and Waimea-based Councillor Anne Turley to write a proposal for full Council to consider and approve.

Their proposal could even consider a youth representative having voting rights, but Peter says his opinion is that voting rights should be subject to the normal election process.

Their proposal would also include a recommendation on there being just the one youth representative or a panel of Youth Council voices in various 'portfolios'.

It is expected the Tasman Youth Council will be the umbrella body for youth representation at local government level. This body has clusters at Richmond/Waimea, Motueka, Golden Bay, Murchison and Tapawera. (Click here for more information about the Tasman Youth Council.)

Peter says he expects the Youth Council to choose from among their own cluster members one or more representatives at the TDC table.

The Youth Council clusters get together twice a year, and it was at one of their hui last year that Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said they should have some sort of representation at local government level. Nelson Council for some years has had a youth representative with speaking rights.

"We can learn a lot from youth," says Cr Peter Canton. "For councillors, it's great to have fresh and relatively naive eyes. The three Motueka Ward councillors are all advocates of this proceeding."

But he says that young people will also benefit greatly by learning for themselves the "long and painstaking processes" involved in sound local government.

"They will learn about due diligence and why it takes so long. How to work within the system. They need to know that getting worthwhile things done involves much more than just posting and ticking likes on Facebook."

Brent Maru says the Community Board has advice through Council staff that it can have a youth councillor representative sit around the Board table and take part in discussions, but they would not be eligible to vote on matters.

"I believe that youth views and perspectives will add value in terms of helping influence decisions that will ultimately effect them both in the present and future.

"I have worked around young people for a long time and they are likely to ask questions. Others may not, [but] it is my experience that they are very proactive in looking to the future.

"The drawback, as is with our normal Board elections, is that it is unreasonable to expect one rep will represent the views of all youth and we must remember this.

"[Youth representation] will bring more youthful thinking, continue to assist in moving the Community Board into a proactive energetic board, and help challenge 'old thinking'.

"In the past when I have proposed this I have been challenged that we then need to offer a representative from other special groups, older adults, iwi etc. My response is that while everyone over 18 years has the democratic opportunity to [vote for] their elected representatives, young people do not.

"The resolution is yet to be voted on, but as Chair I will be moving it and looking for support from fellow members to support this move. If the Board members agree, this can occur simply by an amendment to standing orders."

Current chairman of the Our Town Motueka business group, Johny O'Donnell, is an example of the value of youth involvement in local government. About six years ago, when living in Nelson, he was a youth rep on the Nelson City Council.

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