Youth losing faith in local authorities in Porirua

6:50 pm on 30 September 2019

It's hoped the next mayor of Porirua city will help improve the lot of struggling young people there.

porirua harbour new zealand

Porirua harbour. Photo: 123RF

An annual council stocktake shows children and young people are losing faith in the local authoritity to make decisions, and young people say they're worried about being shut out of housing, mental health treatment, and decisions on combating climate change.

Last year a spate of suicides amongst young people raised alarm bells about the mental health of young citizens.

Nearly 40 percent of people living in the city are below the age of 25 - making it one of the country's youngest populations.

The 2019 Children and Young People report by the Porirua City Council shows young people are more stressed, fewer feel safe after dark, and they report their quality of life is dropping.

Jaistone Finau is a member of the Brown Caucus, a group created to represent young Māori and Pacific people.

He said people his age were also worried about being priced out of their own town by a Government-funded $1.5 billion plan to build 4000 homes in east Porirua; as well as upgrading parks, and redesigning neighbourhoods over the next 25 years.

"The eastern ward is mainly made up of around 70 percent Pacific Island and Māori people and so what they worry about is issues we've seen in Auckland with gentrification and housing values soaring up."

Councillor and candidate Mike Duncan said the feeling of community and security that went with that sense community had been lost.

Mr Duncan said Porirua was one of the few councils that did focus in on young people.

He said grants and awards were great for young people, but had to be balanced out with rates - and the cost of rates to those young people's families.

Youth worker Joan Buchanan said a comprehensive strategic approach to youth development in Porirua was desperately needed.

"The reason it's desperately needed, is we need something that has people in agreement what is important what are the priorities and how best can we deal with some very very significant issues facing the youth of Porirua."

The council's job was to provide leadership and to offer sincere, legitimate engagement, she said.

Councillor and mayoral candidate Ana Coffey said the council had been trying to engage young people by running sessions to let them share their ideas.

She said the council didn't provide things like mental health services, but needed to be involved in those conversations.

"There are definitely some things that our staff are involved with, if I was mayor I would look to be a lot more involved in some of those conversations, and making sure young people are there to input."

Incumbent Mike Tana said young people in Porirua have a lot of pressure on them - and while a lot of that is out of the council's control, it needs to respond.

"We started doing that report so that we could see what needed to be addressed and changed and considered in our city and I think that's what's so neat about this process, we do have to look at where we're at with children and young people, and where we find those gaps we have a plan to make change."

And councillor Anita Baker wants to open a discussion about bringing Māori wardens or something similar back to the city's streets - to make them safer.

"The council's main priorities are obviously doing the basics but just to do the basics on infrastructure and roading, we still need to hear from the kids what they're wanting in the future, they know we have to fix the harbour and all those things, but we need to know what else we can do in the community."

Ms Baker said if elected she would keep an open door policy so anyone with problems or ideas to make the city better, could come and talk.

Deputy mayor Izzy Ford was also hoping to be mayor, and said here was always room for improvement in how youth issues are dealt with.

She said young people have the solutions and that she would like to see councillors mentor them, one on one.

"So then it's not so foreign and then they realise they can be in those spaces. I'd love to break down the whole barrier of 'this is only for some people', it's not, it's for anyone."

And Jaistone Finau had a tip for whoever did end up wearing the chains.

"I'd just say that whoever the mayor is, they have to get involved, otherwise you'll be hearing alot from the engaged youth who want more."

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