09 May 2013

Youth and Auckland’s future

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By Richard Hills
Published: Auckland Now – North Shore Times

The Unitary Plan (www.shapeauckland.co.nz), under Government legislation requires one district plan for Auckland’s future, instead of the many plans from old council boundaries. It cannot make you demolish or sell your house it is a rulebook for growth in our community over the next 30 years, so it is obvious to me that young people and generations that come after us will be impacted by the plan and must have a stake in its development.

Those on the Kaipatiki Youth Board are smart and have great ideas for our future; I enjoy the feedback on community issues from children on our Children’s Panels I helped introduce in our local schools. The hundreds of young people across Auckland I work with in my part time job giveme serious excitement and hope for our future. In all cases the common thread is about making sure young people have a voice on serious issues, allowing them to express what they want to see change, and what they see as important for our future.

Younger people tell me it’s almost impossible to afford average house prices of $600,000+, rents are high and there are few available sections on the North Shore now. People are moving here, people are living longer, others are having more babies; the Unitary Plan gives options for people to build apartments or terraced housing and live around our town centres, more choice for younger couples, people living alone or those who want something smaller once the kids leave home. It might give a first step on the property ladder, allow people to live close to public transport hubs and walking distance to shops and restaurants, or to move from a large property with maintenance they don’t have time for. It will give young people more choices to stay in communities they love, instead of having to move to the city fringe, with a lack of transport options and infrastructure. Also it should help keep younger kiwis here, instead of moving to cities overseas which already give them these options.

Urban sprawl takes up valuable farming and agricultural land and costs a lot to extend & maintain new roading, public transport and waste water infrastructure. Plus our highways are already clogged with people driving to work every day. The Unitary Plan still allows for 160,000 single dwellings (40 per cent) to be built outside the urban limits which seems more than enough, 93 per cent of all housing under new rules will still be two storeys or less with some at three, which is possible under most current rules. Around 6 per cent can be 4-6 storeys and less than 1 per cent can be more than 6 storeys.

Young people have been submitting, holding meetings and making videos, but we must have more young people speaking up, it’s actually up to all of us to submit our personal thoughts and feelings for or against parts of the plan while also considering how it will affects future generations. It’s fine to be against but many are giving no solutions, which may give young people no choice but to move out of our communities either to the city fringe or out of the country altogether, that’s not good for any of us socially or economically into the future.

Submit here.

» Kaipatiki Local Board Member Richard Hills, born and bred in Glenfield, is responsible for the Youth, Community and Social Development and Events portfolios. He works part-time as a Community Health Worker, predominantly working with young people across wider Auckland.

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By Joseph Bergin

Apathy is the symptom of a failed democratic system. I am sick and tired of people telling me that my generation is the problem, that we’re self-interested, lazy and apathetic. I want to put it to those people that our youth are more engaged than they ever have been, we just aren’t listening to them.

Each time the Council goes out to consultation it’s the same story. Here’s this massive document we’ve written, and here’s a little glossy summary with pretty pictures that doesn’t really tell you anything, tell us what you think. And then in order to submit, people need to have the time, or the patience, or the skill to sit down and decipher the intention of these documents and respond to them.

Yet despite this, young people (especially on the Shore) have a history of getting involved and engaged. They make films, write submissions, do little skits, fill-in surveys and voice their concerns in any way they can. Every year they seem to come up with clever new ideas and there is always something different to try. And yet every year the response is exactly the same; thank you, but no thank you.

You can only take so much disappointment. Whether it’s the Council budget (Long Term Plan) or the city blueprint (Unitary Plan), I struggle to see any evidence that the Council seems to be listening. It’s understandable then that the responses of young people can sometimes turn very negative, very quickly. We all know for example the complaints of a certain anonymous blogger who went way too far and started calling the elderly “geriatric time bombs”. When things turn negative, everyone gets angry.

Out of this, special interest groups come out of the wood work who hijack the entire process and play the role of feuding armies. Each claims to represent all young people, or all elderly people, or all ethnic people…etc. This proves to be incredibly unhelpful and ultimately it discourages those who are in these demographics but disagree.

I guess in amongst this rant, what I’m trying to say is that of course youth should speak up on all areas of the city’s future, and to take every opportunity, but remember to be positive, honest to yourself and to be willing to stand for what you think not what people tell you to think. They can’t ignore us much longer.

But hey what do I know?

» Joseph Bergin is a born and raised Shore boy and the youngest elected member of the Auckland Council. Sitting on the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board, he has a history of working with grassroots youth not-for-profits on the Shore.

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