Opinion: The 2021 Hastings Youth Council (HYC) has hit the ground running this year, diving into submissions and working on some exciting plans for the term.
We first met as a group in March, coming together to organise, discuss and set out our vision for the year.
After deciding what we thought the youth council subcommittees should be, we organised ourselves into groups, voted on the leadership roles for the Youth Council (chair and deputies) and got cracking with our planning.
HYC recently submitted on the council's Long Term Plan, offering youth voice on a range of topics from housing (calling for intensification of builds), the Resource Management Act (streamlining the consents process through bulk consents for similar housing) and environmental concerns (climate change, water catchment).
This is the type of work we want to keep doing this year to ensure alternative views are heard on important long term planning.
A defining characteristic of the youth council this year is our desire to be an advocacy and political group that works with council and provides youth voice on important projects. We strive to take an active role in council decision making to ensure the tens of thousands of Hastings youth aren't left out of discussions.
It's important to acknowledge the role council and Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst have had to play in building up the youth council.
Last year's appointment of youth council seats on each of the council's subcommittees (District Development, Eco-District, Greater Communities, Active Transport and Civic and Administration) is testament to that.
The youth voice is being increasingly valued at the tables of governing bodies, and we hope to continue working for young people where the important decisions about Hastings happen.
Our group is also incredibly diverse this year, with ages ranging from 15 up to 22, as well as a wide range of people from different backgrounds, cultures and experience.
Furthermore, we're working with the Napier Youth Council to run semi-regular regional youth council hui with all the youth councils in our region so we can share successful ideas and strategies, and work together to advocate for youth within Hawke's Bay local councils.
On the radar for the next few months is an investigation into mental health in Hastings, and how young people feel they are being supported.
We will collect data through Official Information Act requests and surveys of young people to find out what we have, what works, and what we need to invest in.
A roopu of youth councillors are also working Red Cross with on their new youth ambassador programme which aims to get more young people engaged with Red Cross projects and community initiatives.
A group of us will also be attending the Festival for the Future conference in Wellington where we'll hear from people such as Deputy Prime Minister and Wellington MP Grant Robertson, Wellington mayor Andy Foster and a range of other leaders, CEOs, activists and authors.
If you want to get in contact with us for whatever reason, whether you have a project/idea you'd like youth voice on, or to chat to us about something we could be getting involved with, in the community – email firstname.lastname@example.org, or message @Hastings Youth on Facebook and @hastings.youthcouncil on Instagram.
Keelan Heesterman is the 2021 Hastings Youth Council chairman