Wannabe mayors hear from kids

By Alexandra Newlove

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Whangarei's mayoral candidates - pictured here at Forum North - rounded out their campaign by hearing from the city's youngest resident. Photo / John Stone
Whangarei's mayoral candidates - pictured here at Forum North - rounded out their campaign by hearing from the city's youngest resident. Photo / John Stone

Whangarei's wannabe mayors rounded out their campaigning by wooing some non-voters.

On Friday, they were exposed to the ideas put forth by schools and young people from around the district, with ambitious issues raised including the city's meth problem, gender bullying, traffic safety, better libraries and drink driving.

Terryann Clark, Manaia PHO's child and youth friendly cities co-ordinator, organised the event and said while children may not be able to vote, "their voices deserve to be heard and be part of all council considerations".

The children and youth involved, who represented eight schools and youth organisations, had used the Unicef "Map Your World" framework to produce their ideas, which were displayed on boards for candidates to peruse.

The six mayoral candidates then spoke to children and parents.

Ash Holwell had worked with the schools on the project and said the size of the issues they wanted to address spoke for themselves.

He talked about a number of projects where young people had re-invigorated empty buildings in town, spaces which "adults hadn't done so well with".

David Blackley said he had insight into what young people and children wanted - given he had seven of his own. He said council's role lay in providing a safe physical environment.

"I grew up before social welfare, there was no support for my mum. It was only community, family and friends that keep us going," he said.

Stuart Bell said he admired a Canadian movement called "8 80 Cities" which posited if public spaces work for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old, everyone prospered.

He said one of his daughters was a champion BMX rider, yet his partner would not let her ride her bike around the streets of Whangarei as it was too dangerous. Children needed to be included early in council planning, he said.

"[Currently] we have the discussion after we've made the plan."

Sheryl Mai said while some of the dreams were probably bigger than the council could deal with alone, "keep having those dreams and work with us to find innovative ways to meet [them]".

Matt Keene said he hoped Whangarei would follow through on its aim to become the country's first Unicef-accredited "Child Friendly City".

"We have voices here we need to listen to, which traditionally we haven't," he said.

Kay Brittenden said she had used her 9-year-old granddaughter to help write some of her speeches.

Her granddaughter had consulted her class for feedback. Waterslides, more celebrities in town, a hovercraft activity barn, a cleaner CBD and proper housing for everyone were their key points.

- Northern Advocate

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