Formerly New Zealand's High Commissioner to the Cook Islands and MP for the Northland Electorate of New Zealand.


Moving forward together

Thursday 20 April 2017

Helping our youth helps us all

Last week Nina Griffiths was among 50 individuals and groups recognised by Youth Minister Nikki Kaye at the 2017 New Zealand Youth Awards.

The Kaitaia 18-year-old received her Change Maker (Community Safety) award during a ceremony at Parliament for her work in suicide prevention. It is one of several well-deserved accolades Nina has gained including an AMP Dare to Dream scholarship won in October. That comes with $10,000 that Nina plans to put towards youth development in Kaitaia. In December she was named the People's Choice in the New Zealand Herald's search for New Zealander of the Year.

This is a lot of public attention for someone who has just left school. It is a credit to Nina that the most important thing for her last week was the pride she felt in being joined by fellow Northland award recipients, Te Rau Aroha Totoro and Justice Heteraka.

We need more young people like Nina, which is why Far North District Council is supporting the Far North Youth Council. Last On Tuesday I attended the Far North Youth Council powhiri at Kohewhata Marae in Kaikohe, together with the Deputy Mayor. We've established youth councils in our three wards and these have gone on to engage with 12 to 24-year-olds, strengthening our relationship with young people and encouraging their participation in the work council does.

Providing this platform for a youth voice means that council can more easily consult with youth on our key projects. So far the Youth Council has provided volunteers for several community projects and events such as the opening of the Kaikohe Skate Bowl. In return we have provided youth mentoring and leadership training, and organised youth events across the district.

This year, the Far North Youth Council will participate in the Future Leaders programme delivered by the Inspiring Stories Trust. This programme is part of the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs initiative, supported by Local Government Youth Project funding from the Ministry of Youth Development.

I believe this is important work for all of us. Like other provincial areas, the Far North struggles to hold on to its young people. Many head to the cities for education and work, and then overseas for adventure. Many never come back here to live.

As parents we want to see our tamariki do well, but regret this often happens so far away. It is also hard for our district. Without young people our communities begin to die; our schools close down, family farms are sold off, jobs disappear and the ones we do have are harder to fill. That's why we need to encourage a sense of belonging and provide opportunities for youngsters to have a real say about how their district develops. The Youth Council is just one way we can achieve that.

Nina Griffiths plans to study at university. I wish her all the best and thank her for the contribution she has made. I hope she returns. In the meantime we will do all we can to encourage our young people so they too become active and passionate community members.



My Columns
Media Reports
Photo Gallery
Press Releases