Think your voice doesn’t count? The chair of Henderson-Massey’s local board begs to differ, calling on all young people to have their say on Auckland Council’s 10-year plan.
Calling all young people in Auckland, your city needs you. The long-term future of Auckland depends on what is adopted in the Auckland Council’s 10-year long-term plan.
As an insider to the council process, I can tell you how much your submissions mean to the running of this city. As chairperson of the Henderson-Massey local board, I’ll read every submission that is made on the plan. I expect to receive about 800 pages of suggestions on what’s going right and wrong, but no doubt a majority of these submissions will be missing the youth voice. Although every page is important to us, I think my colleagues save the special orange highlighter for submissions from young people, and we truly hang onto every idea.
The reason for this is simple: there’s so much more at stake for young people. If you’re under 30, you’ll likely experience at least 50 years’ enjoyment of this beautiful place, so you’re the best bet that we have to make sure that it suits your needs. Older people also carry the same level of responsibility for Auckland’s future, but the older you are, the shorter amount of time you have to live with the decisions that are being made.
When I was first elected at the age of 26, I was Auckland’s youngest-ever elected representative. Even now at 30, I’m still usually the youngest person in the room. On that first day in office I hoped that by the age of 30 I’d be considered an old hand. So far, not yet. Decision-making in this city is still largely the preserve of those above the age of 45. Without an active population of politically-savvy young people to keep them on their toes, elected representatives find it more of a challenge to know what young people actually care about. We all try our best, but the more we know, the better our city will be.
So what’s the long-term plan about and how will it affect Auckland’s younger generation?
Firstly, there’s a proposal for a regional fuel tax of up to 10c per litre. I think we can all agree that Auckland’s transport system is shocking for a world-class city. Auckland is continuing to grow, and while we’ve made huge gains in the last five years, public transport is still a non-starter for much of Auckland, especially to and from the airport and our outer suburbs. To fund extra infrastructure, the Council is asking whether we’re willing to pay more to get it right.
Second, there’s a targeted rate proposed for environmental management. Our natural spaces have degraded sharply, so much so that the Waitakere Ranges have had to be closed to stop Kauri dieback – a tree disease that threatens to wipe out most of the forest. If Auckland agrees, the Council will accelerate environmental protection.
Third, we’re facing a potential crisis if we can’t get our stormwater system up to scratch. Many of our underground pipes were installed over 50, sometimes 100 years ago, so it’s no wonder that the system is beginning to fail. We already have pollution warnings at some of our west coast beaches, and if we don’t act soon, our rivers and streams will be next to go, which will devastate our natural environment. The Council has proposed an extra rate to install large stormwater infrastructure to meet our city’s growing needs, and we need you to tell us what you think of this.
Finally, your local board has set their own priorities for your local community, so it’s in your interest to find out what they’re doing for your area. Let them know if they’ve got it right, or suggest improvements if you have other ideas on where we should be going. If you think we need a park upgrade, new cycle lanes, more events or anything like that, now is your chance.
I have long worried that government at a local street level is something that just happens to young people, rather than something they are actively encouraged and able to participate in. For our city to succeed and be world-class, the younger generation needs to drive the change.
Auckland Council is open for feedback on its 10-year plan until March 28, 8pm.
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