Whangarei first city to join Unicef's youth initiative

By Mikaela Collins

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Child and Youth Friendly Whangarei Coordinator Hannah Mitchell, Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai and Brad Olsen, chairman of the Whangarei Youth Advisory Group celebrate Whangarei becoming the first centre in the country to sign up to Unicef's Child Friendly Cities Initiative.Photo/John Stone
Child and Youth Friendly Whangarei Coordinator Hannah Mitchell, Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai and Brad Olsen, chairman of the Whangarei Youth Advisory Group celebrate Whangarei becoming the first centre in the country to sign up to Unicef's Child Friendly Cities Initiative.Photo/John Stone

More play areas, youth-oriented events and making the streets safe for youngsters will be the focus of decision makers as Whangarei aims to become the first Child Friendly City in the country.

The move comes after Whangarei became the first New Zealand city to sign up to Unicef's Child Friendly Cities Initiative.

Unicef NZ National Advocacy manager Deborah Morris-Travers said the initiative is a framework guiding councils and communities to put children first.

Hannah Mitchell, Child and Youth Friendly Whangarei Coordinator, said the initiative is an important part of bringing "to light children's rights and needs which are the right to basic services" including the right to health care, safety and an equal voice, she said.

Ms Mitchell said there is no strict model for making the city child and youth friendly but that Whangarei will be seeking Unicef accreditation.

Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai said working towards accreditation aligns with the Whangarei District Council's efforts in recent years to create a place where children and youth feel "safer, more valued and supported to grow."

As a first step an assessment will be done to see how child and youth friendly the city is. Ms Mai said the council will then work on action plans with other partners who signed the Child Friendly Cities Initiative agreement. The needs of children and youth will then be at the centre of decision making around the council table.

Ms Mai said the council would be looking at a combination of factors that would make Whangarei a better place for young people.

"We'll be looking at access to play areas and ensuring there are safe physical environments. We're looking at having more youth-focused events and ensuring the streets are safe. We'll be making sure there's clean water. All with the motive of having a youth focus.

Ms Mitchell said Whangarei will be working through the Northland Intersectoral Forum which has 19 members including the heads of local and regional government agencies, Northland District Health Board, the PHO, Sport Northland and Northland Inc. She will also be working with the Whangarei Youth Space and the Whangarei Youth Advisory Group who have "already done a lot of research about this".

Brad Olsen, Unicef Youth Ambassador and Chairman of the Whangarei Youth Advisory Group said he thinks the initiative is "great" and gives youth and children a voice.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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