Liana Needham says Ōtūmoetai needs better streetscapes, more reliable public transport, and more usable public amenities.
She and her Year 12 Geography classmates at Ōtūmoetai College spoke to Tauranga City Council representatives about what they want to see for the future of their suburb.
The council is currently seeking feedback on its Ōtūmoetai 2050 plan, which looks to manage projected future growth in the suburbs of Ōtūmoetai, Matua, Brookfield, Bellevue and Judea.
Students from the college gave their feedback on the plan as part of a geography assignment.
The assignment began as a study of town planning in the Auckland CBD, which taught them the skills needed to understand the issues around future planning.
A council planner came and visited the class to hear from the students directly.
Liana, who lives in the Pillans Point area, told the planner she wanted to see the streetscapes improved, along with better public transport options and public amenities.
"People don't really want to walk around the place because it's not appealing... when it would be easier to drive because there's nothing to look forward to on the street."
To encourage people to use public transport, she suggested improving bus stops "so they're not just poles in the ground".
"I think if buses were more reliable, people would use the bus more... but [in the same time as] just getting to the bus stop and waiting for a bus, you could get there by driving."
Liana felt it was important for young people to "be able to go through that experience" of looking at future city planning.
"I think of a lot of times, young people are pushed aside because it's not our time right now to worry about it."
She said young people weren't given the opportunity to learn about these issues, so when they're asked their opinions, "it's like being put on the spot - we haven't had time to think about it".
Through the assignment, she had learned "how important it is to think beyond just your own bubble" when considering community issues to make sure "this area works for everybody".
She thought it was worthwhile hearing from local communities "because it's not beneficial for them [the planners] to go and plan a whole new upgrade, and then the people not to use the things they're putting in".
Fellow Year 12 student George Farrar, who lives in Matua, said he told the planner he wanted to see more green spaces and eating options in his area.
"In the weekend I was at Yatton Park, and it really stood out to me... it's just a beautiful park, and I was just like, 'why don't we have that here?' We have parks, but they're just not that great."
He wanted to see better public transport options available so "it would be more worthwhile to run them".
He thought it was important for town planners to speak to local communities and have local knowledge.
Loui Alexander, also in Year 12, recommended the council plan carefully and consider future options for managing growth, rather than being haphazard in its approach.
He lives outside the city and missed the green open farmland that used to surround him which is now full of houses.
"They really have to think about how they should make use of space, or maybe if they even actually need to put as many houses in as they are."
He had been surprised by how interesting he found the assignment.
"It's actually really interesting - I was expecting it to be really boring and just be a long, long lecture... but I was interested. I found it quite inspiring."
He thought school projects like the one they had engaged in would help get young people involved in local issues.
"I think it's just a matter of bringing it up in school more, especially maybe in intermediate... because no one really thinks about it.
"I think we need to be all exposed to it."
The council's team leader of urban communities Carl Lucca said the students gave "really valuable feedback".
"We were really impressed with the students' ability to be future-focussed and their understanding of what their neighbourhood could look and function like".
He said the students as a whole had given feedback on the need for recreation facilities, safer streets, broader uses for open spaces and environmental wellbeing.
He said young people use more "active transport modes" like walking and cycling to get around and use open spaces.
"As our city grows, we want to be able to respond to these needs."
Commission chair Anne Tolley said the council's engagement processes "now deliberately target involvement of 'hard-to-reach' community groups and our youth are high on that list".
"After all, they are the future of our city and it's right that the decisions we make take their needs and priorities into account... the more we talk to them now, the more we will be able to respond to their needs."
Feedback on the plan is open until July 3. See the council's website to submit.