A Gore district councillor gave an impassioned plea to her colleagues to allow the district’s youth council to continue, so it would give young people the opportunity to grow as leaders.
The Gore District Council has decided to revitalise and restructure the Gore District Youth Council, after a council staff member recommended that it be dissolved and the council transition to a model of targeted youth engagement on an as-needed basis.
A report prepared by council community strategy manager Anne Pullar, which was tabled at a council meeting on December 19, questioned whether the Youth Council was the most effective mechanism for amplifying the youth voice within the district.
It said the council needed to make an informed decision regarding the continuity of the youth council in its current configuration or any potential variants, and needed to consider both the financial implications and the allocation of staff resources needed to ensure the youth council’s effective operation.
The agenda also included a report from McElrea Consulting, which said the council’s Ready for Living co-ordinator dedicates up to five hours per week providing administration services to the youth council. The youth council has an annual budget allocation of $10,000.
It says among the 16 youth councillors currently serving, six are remarkably young, aged only 12 or 13. In contrast, there is just one member who is older than 16.
Pullar was not at the meeting, but interim chief executive Stephen Parry spoke about the issue, saying the youth council in its current guise had strayed away from its original purpose.
At the outset, it was a vehicle to give leadership opportunities for senior secondary school pupils and to provide a voice for youth around the council based on agenda items of the day. The purpose had now moved to events for youth with a far more broader range of participants, he said.
It had sometimes been difficult to get a resource around the youth council to support it and its endeavours and on balance, staff had thought maybe it was time to ‘’draw a line in the sand and say it’s run its course”.
It was ultimately a political decision, but if the council wanted to see the youth council reinvigorated, it would need to ensure it was adequately resourced.
Cr Bronwyn Reid said she wanted to see it continue.
“How can we not continue?’’ she asked.
“It may not be every teenagers’ dream of a fun time out, but unless we give a revitalised youth council the opportunity to find their feet, we won’t know.’’
She said the fact that no current councillor had been appointed to the youth council was a disappointment to her, and she encouraged councillors to think about how they would vote on the issue and what message that would send to young people.
Cr Keith Hovell said in his view the council had planned for the youth council to fail by not engaging with it or adequately resourcing it, and Cr Robert McKenzie suggested putting a timeline on a re-gigged youth council to see if it could prove itself.
Cr Andy Frazer went against the trend, saying the youth council was ‘’just not working,’’ while Cr Neville Phillips apologised to its members because the council had ‘’gone to sleep’’ on the issue.
Budgets were tight at the moment but the youth council members were the district’s up-and-coming councillors, he said.