Local elections 2019

The "vital youth voice" is missing from many Rotorua Lakes Council decisions according to a recent survey of 147 Rotorua high school students.

Councillor Tania Tapsell, who heads the Sustainable Living Portfolio, presented the findings at today's full council meeting.

The Rotorua Youth Voice Programme was formed with guidance from the Rotorua Lakes Council, after the first Student Strike for Climate Change in March.

Tania Tapsell presented the 2019 Rotorua Youth Voice Survey findings at the Rotorua Lakes Coucil meeting. Photo / Stephen Parker
Tania Tapsell presented the 2019 Rotorua Youth Voice Survey findings at the Rotorua Lakes Coucil meeting. Photo / Stephen Parker

Programme leaders have since surveyed fellow students about their wants and needs in Rotorua.

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The respondents, aged 13 to 18, came from high schools across the district.

When asked if Rotorua needed more youth involvement, not one of the respondents said no.

"Rotorua, both in civics and reality, doesn't cater to youth," the findings document said, despite that young people wanted to be heard.

"This gap in engagement is a big problem for the council".

When asked what Rotorua needed most "an overwhelming number" called for better mental health services.

One respondent offered the idea of permanent walk-in counselling, and overall the document said: "For many youth pressures from school, family, work and extracurriculars pile up to become an insurmountable obstacle in terms of wellbeing."

Youth careers programmes were also raised, and one student suggested regular talks from locals about their working lives.

"You could book to go to the talks you would want to see."

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There was also a general consensus "that Rotorua doesn't do enough to help its lower class" and students consistently raised concerns about what Rotorua was doing to combat the climate crisis and reduce its footprint.

When asked what they would like to see in Rotorua in 10 years, the students emphasised reducing litter, sustainability, and self-sufficiency.

They also said using communal gardens, and locally made products would help achieve this, and reduce the number of items trucked into the city for consumers.

When asked what they would do for Rotorua if they had unlimited resources, the respondents said they would build a safe social centre with a health and dental clinic, shelter for the homeless, and a centre for local produce similar to that proposed by Kai Rotorua.

The respondents also said they would restore forests, ensure there were cheap eco-friendly products in local stores, and bring in composting options around the city.

The students were also asked if Rotorua was a good place to raise kids.

Fifty-five per cent said yes, and the rest varied between no, maybe, and having no opinion.

One respondent said, "l love Rotorua and it'll always be home, the only thing that would stop me raising my own children here is the excessive amounts of pressure and mental health problems that get out into the kids' heads at such young ages."

Rotorua Lakes Council meeting, with councillors (from left) Tania Tapsell, Charles Sturt, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Trevor Maxwell, and Raj Kumar. Photo / File
Rotorua Lakes Council meeting, with councillors (from left) Tania Tapsell, Charles Sturt, Merepeka Raukawa-Tait, Trevor Maxwell, and Raj Kumar. Photo / File

At the meeting, councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait said "our young people are dealing with some real heavy issues" but the survey results put a question mark over the council's role.

"When you look at the priorities that have been set or have been indicated by the survey results, there are other obviously NGOs and government agencies who need to be at the table from time to time.

"We [the council] can play the leadership role in facilitating the necessary discussions.. but there have to be others who can pick up and deliver the services that they may want."

Councillor Charles Sturt said he was "encouraged by the hands-on action" from local youth.

"Council isn't the complete answer to all the issues, there is a serious role for the Lakes District Health Board in terms of where it covers health and wellbeing."

Rotorua Lakes Council candidates views: Would you prioritise young people's wants and needs?

Liz Carrington. Photo / Supplied
Liz Carrington. Photo / Supplied

Yes, it is very important for them to have a voice, children are 100 per cent our future. I have a background in child and adolescent mental health, and I have four children, so I have dedicated a lot of time to youth.
Liz Carrington

Alan Tāne Solomon. Photo / Supplied
Alan Tāne Solomon. Photo / Supplied

Rotorua needs a dedicated youth portfolio that captures and engages all youth to achieve their goals and dreams. This will require more collaboration with the council and our community.
Alan Tāne Solomon

Julie Kerry. Photo / Supplied
Julie Kerry. Photo / Supplied

Absolutely. People my age have had what we've had and the future has to come from our young ones. They have some fantastic ideas.
Julie Kerry

Fisher Wang. Photo / Supplied
Fisher Wang. Photo / Supplied

Obviously as a young person, yes, but we have to balance the needs and wants of all ages for the best outcomes for the community.
Fisher Wang