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Pansy Speak: Our youth - a future and a hope

Pansy Speak

Our youth - a future and a hope

Final farewells will be said today for Elim Christian College students Natasha Bray, Portia McPhail, Tom Hsu, Anthony Mulder, Floyd Fernandes, and Tara Gregory, and teacher Tony McClean.

A memorial service is being held this morning at the TelstraClear Centre in Manukau. It’s hard to believe that these talented, bright, loving people lost their lives in the Mangatepopo River tragedy just three weeks ago. The memorial service will be a time for hope and reflection. Elim Christian College has led the way since the nation first heard the terrible news. Their strong faith has consoled families, friends, and people who never knew the seven.

Today’s service has been called ‘A future and a Hope’, and will celebrate the contribution these people made to the world. These students were leaders and achievers, and their teacher went beyond the call of duty when he tied Tom Hsu, a cerebral palsy sufferer, to his back to try to save him from the rising waters. We can learn a lot from their actions.

In a time where news headlines highlight the bad choices some youth make it’s refreshing that we can still have faith in our younger generations to show the way.

Botany Downs Secondary School is another school which is encouraging its students to do their best and achieve. This afternoon I will be a judge for Enterprise New Zealand’s SELL programme, which is similar to the Dragon’s Den television show.

For the past two days, Year 10 and 11 students have been forming national companies, researching and deciding on goods or services, and writing a business plan, and they will launch it in an oral presentation competition today. I can’t wait to see what they come up with. We need to encourage students to aim high and push the limits because that helps them realise their dreams.

It’s important that we promote the good work our youth do, because all too often we are overwhelmed by the negative stores because, let’s face it, they come thick and fast.

The Killer Beez have been back in the news following the massive drug bust by the police. This gang has become New Zealand’s largest youth gang, with estimates that they have more than 3,000 members. With the haul of drugs the police took away, I shudder to think what this gang has been teaching our kids.

National is serious about helping our youth achieve and clamping down on gangs like the Killer Beez. The plan starts with our universal education entitlement, which makes education free for all 16- and 17-year-olds who don’t succeed in a traditional school environment to study school-level qualifications at approved institutions. If they choose not to take up the offer, and don’t work, then they won’t be able to receive a state benefit.

We will also extend the jurisdiction of the Youth Court to cover 12- and 13 year-olds, and extend Youth Court powers to include parenting orders, mentoring programmes, and compulsory drug and alcohol programmes. We will double sentences for the worst offenders, and will establish a Fresh Start Programme – which combines the effective elements of army-type training with the most advanced expertise in youth offending and rehabilitation – for those who need a serious dose of intervention.

National also wants our children to start life with a quality education so they can make the right choices and are ambitious for their futures. We will set national standards in reading, writing, and maths, and assess all primary and intermediate school children against those standards. And parents will also get the results so they, too, are involved. By building a strong foundation, hopefully our future youth won’t feel the need to turn to a life of crime.

I am realistic - it will take more than just education to put a stop to youth crime, and I am pleased to see that Manukau City now has another tool to do this in the fight against graffiti. Parliament recently passed into law the Manukau City Council Control of Graffiti Bill. It did not have an easy passage, though, with Labour MPs on the sSelect committee failing to support it. However, National MPs, myself and Judith Collins included, stood up and supported it so it could become law.

Now, the local authorities have the legal strength to tackle the vandals who deface shops, buildings, fences, playgrounds, and footpaths. Bit by bit we are sending a strong message to youth gangs and those who break the law that their actions are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

So, today is a reflection on what our youth can achieve and what we can do to help them. National is ambitious for the future of New Zealand and our future generations.

Pansy Wong


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