11 Aug 2011

Riots 'a warning' to engage with youth

12:00 pm on 11 August 2011

Gang members and youth advocates say New Zealand leaders should take note of the rioting in Britain and engage with young people in this country before it is too late.

They say teenagers in some parts of the country feel hopeless and alienated, factors that some in Britain say led to the riots there.

A gang worker and community chaplain, Mua Strickson-Pua, says New Zealand is failing its youth and needs to urgently address the many jobless.

A report from privately-funded think-tank the New Zealand Institute last month found 45% of unemployed people were aged 15 to 24 - a higher proportion than any other OECD country.

Mongrel Mob member Edge Te Whaiti says he feels growing tension among young people who feel mistreated and hopeless. He says it wouldn't take much for things to escalate in certain areas of New Zealand.

A Canterbury University academic has warned New Zealand could face similar rioting as Britain if youth unemployment is not addressed.

Bronwyn Hayward, a political scientist, spent three years in Britain studying the social, political and economic issues facing children and young people there.

She says a tough economic climate and skyrocketing youth unemployment have contributed to the troubles in Britain, and the New Zealand Government needs to consider how jobs can be generated for youth.

Ms Hayward says unlike Britain, New Zealand youth turn their anger inward, which is why the youth suicide rate is so high.