Youth are the future of Whangarei. With an estimated population of 14,000 aged under 24 in the Whangarei District, it is hugely important to not only consider them in future decisions, but to actually hear their opinions at the decision-making table, and make a measurable change to their lives.

This has been an action-packed, intense and productive year for youth in Whangarei. Our sporting and cultural stars are making names for themselves on the national and international stage, including WGHS student Rachel Boyd, who was this year's winner of the Cyril Bassett VC Speech Contest.

It's been my privilege this year to be elected as the chairman of the Whangarei District Council Youth Advisory Group, and I have worked with an amazing group of people in this capacity to provide the "youth view" to council, so that Whangarei can be made bigger and brighter for years to come. Our 2013 Youth Policy was accepted by WDC in May this year, which marked a massive milestone for a group of 15-20 year olds who have given up huge amounts of time to construct a blueprint for the future of our city.

We as a group are now focused on realising the goals set out in this policy and, by working with council, youth and local providers, we can't wait to see what is achieved.


I have also recently returned from a trip to Fiji as a Unicef NZ Youth Ambassador, where I focused on bullying prevention, and much of what I learned revolved around the idea that "bullying is not our culture". We as a community have a duty to instil in everyone that bullying is not acceptable; we pride ourselves on "Love It Here", and we need to show that we care for our people too.

As many businesses close over the summer, and look towards a fresh start in the New Year, I urge all employers around Whangarei to carefully consider the part they play in solving the problem of youth unemployment in our district. Keep it local. Our youth want jobs and, by providing a job, you can start a young person on a journey of employment which they will continue their entire life. It's about providing the opportunities to youth to allow them to become functioning members of society.

If we are truly looking to move forward in the world, we need to stop looking at youth as the problem that is too hard to solve, but as a solution and as a resource that can positively contribute to the world around us. I urge Whangarei to step up, include youth, and help Shape Your City.

Brad Olsen is from Whangarei Boys' High School.