Below is the speech I gave as part of my submission presentation to the Napier City Council’s Ten Year Plan yesterday (Monday 8 June 2015)
Napier’s youth are its biggest export, but also its biggest asset.
We spend so much money, focus and publicity attracting tourists to Napier for a single day or two each year, why don’t we try to use that same level of funding and focus keeping our young people here and making it worth their while?
Each year around 750 year 12 and 13 students finish / leave Napier high schools: 170 from Napier Boys’ High School, around 150 from Taradale High and 135 from Napier Girls’ High School, with lower but similar numbers from Tamatea and Colenso High Schools – 600+ of those go off to university.
That’s over 1000 Hawke’s Bay youth leaving the region each year!
Most never to return.
When they do it’s three years later and at least $30,000 in debt. All too often with a qualification that has no relevance to attaining their ideal job.
Despite the message that Hawke’s Bay has an ageing population, Statistics NZ shows the percentage of 10-20 year olds in HB outnumbers the 40-50 or 50-60 age bracket!
So what do we have for them?
YCON appears to be a token gesture at best – it does not cater to all Napier schools and youth and is hardly ever heard from or in the public eye.
I have spoken to past YCON members who joined with the best of intentions to make a difference but ended up feeling irrelevant and ignored by the council and councillors.
The YCON website is a joke, having only just been updated last year for the first time in three years. The “latest” YCON meeting minutes are dated September 2011
The “What’s on” section of the page somehow completely ignored last Friday’s Stage Challenge, in which 10 schools from around HB took part in a dancing, musical extravaganza – something YCON and local media should have been all over , but did recommend alcoholic FAWC events and a “Moving on after breast cancer recovery programme” – hardly appropriate or relevant.
NCC had a “Youth Coordinator” position years ago, but it was dis-established and the money put into developing skate-bowls. Not all youth are skaters and if the current resurfacing of Anderson Park’s bowl is expected to take up to 6 weeks, plans to do the same to the former Marineland site are made with similar surfaces; repairs could see it out of action for months.
We have people and organisations in Napier prepared to help local youth, but they are bypassed for out of town, Christian-based organisations. Why does the council not use those who know Napier best?
Again we hear so very little from these “youth groups” – It appears the Zeal of youth and Atomic power appear to give way to Greed of collecting funding and Sloth of doing as little as possible, while retaining that funding.
With Napier’s diversifying to now include Muslim, Hindu and LGBT communities– the belief structures behind these organisations aren’t always appropriate or as egalitarian as they should be.
Napier’s youth need and want a place to a place to congregate, relax, learn and have done so for years.
Former Napier City Councillor John Harrison called the last attempt at a youth facility in the late 90’s early 2000’s a “Den of iniquity”.
We can do better than that on a facility and councillor level.
We can do better for those who choose not to go to university too.
We need more local programmes like Youth Futures – (NCC CEO Wayne Jack is a trustee, but the website leads you to believe it is) supported solely by HDC it appears – where youth can “learn as they earn” – internships, apprenticeships with local businesses.
On this council alone we have accountants, community workers, event and hospitality managers, who could surely help facilitate the implementation of such programmes with their own local business connections.
If NCC can spend 5% (or $3.75mill) of their $75mill operating budget attracting tourists to Napier, imagine the wonders even one third of that could amount could do to Napier’s economy, demographics and vibrancy.
Napier and its youth deserve better!
There was a question time from councillors afterwards and responses were mixed to muted.
Councillor Richard McGrath noted there were hundreds of volunteer groups around the city doing stuff with youth.
I replied that’s great – get them all around a table and get a plan going, because I can guarantee that most of them don’t know the others even exist!
Councillor Tony Jeffery referred to my written submission’s comment about NCC looking after “Baby-boomers” and that almost half the current council, for the first time in decades, was far younger and newer than it had usually been.
I again agreed, stating it was a great opportunity to make a difference and that’s why I had made my submission now and not three years ago.
Councillor Michelle Pyke, once a champion of a section of Napier youth with her venue “The State of it” (now the kitchenware section of Farmers department store) appeared to take offence to any and all my criticisms of NCC youth doings.
She even asked me “What have you done for the youth of Napier?”
In hindsight I could have mentioned:
• The two years I volunteered for the HB Cancer Society working as a Smokefree ambassador.
• Helping Stage Challenge really establish a foot-hold in Hawke’s Bay in 1998, again voluntarily.
• Playing for organising and being secretary for Napier Old Boys’ Marist Cricket Club
• Writing this blog – 105 and counting posts of inspiring, (mainly) though and debate-provoking writing. Asking questions and shedding light on local issues.
• Promoting as many local events, ideas, products and thoughts as I can on social media.
But rather than “unleashing the beast” (cathartic, but we’re asking for assistance here) I just mentioned my time on the Napier City Council Youth Forum, but admitted that looking after my family had been my first and foremost priority in recent years and it was only in the last few months that I have had time to put real focus on other things.
But it was a typically lazy, political criticism from Michelle.
Because, unlike her, I haven’t been a member of the Napier City Council for the past five years.
I don’t have access to a $75mill operating budget, easy links and access to facilities, organisations and my council’s own Youth Council.
I DO, however, have great people supporting me, a world and world-wide-web of potential in front of me and at my finger-tips and the determination to actually make a difference in not just the next five years, but a great and potential-filled future!
Will my submission make a difference?
All I DO know is Napier and its youth deserve far better than they have gotten in past years.