What's it like growing up in Whanganui in 2019?

Is it all playing online instead of playing outside? Getting spoilt with access to junk food and being driven everywhere by your parents? Is it a cheap plastic throwaway culture and more selfishness?

I feel old when my kids ask me about what was my favourite computer game when I was young because of course we didn't have them. Actually, that's not quite true – my parents must have been trendsetters as we had that super simple, clunky video game version of table tennis called Sportronic that plugged into the TV.

For my two boys, using electronic devices is an everyday thing, at home and school. We've recently cut back on how much screen time they get during the week and they are so much better to be around – less arguing and getting irritable.


No limits on reading though – being allowed to use my Kindle to read e-books is not constrained (and is considered a treat) and Mr Nine is now counting words he's read in the thousands. But even with electronics being ubiquitous, an outing to the Embassy to see a movie on the big screen is still a treat.

Playing outside is still a thing too, particularly at the beach – hide and seek in the sand dunes, followed by an icecream cone on the way home is a top weekend outing. With cycling having a resurgence and the council investing in safe, separated cycleways, maybe biking to the beach is the next thing we try.

I remember when McDonald's arrived in Whanganui and going out for dinner with the family to the Wing Wah was a special occasion. Yes, we now have the full range of takeaway options in our town, but also some real diversity. I can't wait to try the new South Indian restaurant that's just opened at the old Beijing, Kungfu Yoga – they have dosa (those crispy pancakes I loved in Wellington).

Taking fish and chips out to the playground, either the beach or Kowhai Park, is still a great option with the kids. And more than Kowhai Park featured in a wonderful blog getting some serious sharing on social media via www.roxboroghreport.com. Entitled "Why Whanganui is New Zealand's most misjudged city – my top 50 photos", it profiles the beauty and diversity of our home town.

Digital cameras, particularly via our phones, have completely changed how childhood memories are captured. I've recently started the process of printing annual photo books, selecting my favourite images from Facebook. Ostensibly, this is part of me creating an option to quit Facebook, particularly with the arrival of advertising popping up in Messenger. I don't want to lose my online photos.

When I was young, the only photos were the printed variety. It cost so much to get a roll processed and the excitement of opening the envelope was often dashed with blurry shots galore. My kids only know the instant delete and take again of today – not a bad improvement, though.

I loved looking through the family photo albums at my grandparents' house, particularly the few photos they had from their youth. Will my children create some sort of printed record of their images one day, or will Snapchat filters and editing functions distract them from holding on to pieces of how it actually was?

In terms of greater exposure to our capitalistic culture, our kids don't have it all bad. There are many sustainable enterprises coming through. Yesterday I was lucky enough to meet the young founder of Little Yellow Bird, an ethical clothing company driven by reducing impact of fast fashion on the planet.


Earlier this week I attended the premiere of Making Waves, a short documentary produced by Whanganui's Double Farley, profiling the efforts of our own Dr Athol Steward to raise awareness of seabed mining. This was preceded by a short clip featuring local school girls Sienna and Danielle sharing their concerns about ocean pollution.

They're not alone. This week Inspiring Stories launched www.theimpactawards.nz to acknowledge young people who are dreaming big and pushing boundaries to make a difference for our future. I hope to see some Whanganui people in the nominations.

Nicola Patrick is a councillor at Horizons Regional Council and leads a new social enterprise hub, Thrive Whanganui. A mum of two boys, she has a science degree and is a Green Party member.