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Push For Young City Folk To Think Rural

With the big OE still out of reach for many of New Zealand’s twentysomethings, a new initiative is promising to give young city-dwellers a wholly different life experience – a rural one.

Think Rural is the brainchild of LGNZ’s Mayors Taskforce for Jobs (MTFJ), with funding from the Ministry of Social Development. The central idea is to attract young people from cities to rural areas where there is a wealth of jobs on offer – and give them a chance to experience a new way of life, packed with adventure, excitement and opportunity.

Max Baxter, Mayor of Ōtorohanga District Council, who has helped spearhead the Think Rural campaign which launched today, says that many young people living in cities have never experienced rural life, and they’ll be surprised by what they find.

“The nightlife in the country is wild – and I mean that literally. Traffic jams involve ewes rather than utes. The local folk are friendly as anything. The jobs are aplenty. Housing is still cheap. Plus, young people cooped up in apartments at Level 3 might find the country life more to their liking, where the only thing in a coop is a chicken,” says Max.

“From farming to forestry, being a barrister or barista, working in a deli or dentistry, there’s a host of jobs in rural areas that are crying out for fresh talent. Whether you have a PhD, trade qualifications or left school early, think rural.”

Noa Woolloff, National Programme Manager of MTFJ, is 23 and no stranger to carving out his own path. After leaving school, he jumped at the chance of supporting young people to get into employment, taking up leadership roles straight off the bat.

“Many people don’t give rangatahi the chance to prove themselves – and for me, getting where I am is largely because of the support I’ve had from community leaders in different places. Think Rural has the backing of rural mayors who are lining up to make a difference in the lives of young people without jobs or qualifications.”

Eighteen rural councils up and down the country are getting behind the Think Rural scheme in the hope of drawing a younger crowd. They are Ōpōtiki, Ōtorohanga, Central Hawke’s Bay, Chatham Islands, Gore, Ruapehu, Waimate, Westland, Wairoa, Hurunui, Tararua, Grey, Rangitikei, Clutha, Hauraki, Mackenzie and Buller.

The target set for the Mayors Taskforce for Jobs is getting 1,150 young people into sustainable employment with funding support of up to $500,000 going to rural councils (population 20,000 or less) to aid their efforts.

Wannabe rural-dwellers can find the right community for them on www.thinkrural.co.nz. The site gives the skinny on each participating town and directs people to available jobs.

Mayors Taskforce for Jobs (MTFJ)

MTFJ is a nationwide network of New Zealand’s Mayors, working together towards the vision of all young people under 25 being engaged in appropriate education, training, work or other positive activity in their communities.

The MTFJ is governed by the Core Group which includes 17 Mayors from throughout the country, and is Chaired by Mayor Max Baxter of Ōtorohanga Council.

MTFJ’s Community Recovery Programme (CRP) with the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) is already achieving remarkable results. To date, over 1,300 mostly young people or Covid displaced workers have found sustainable employment through the partnership, with councils providing pastoral care and funding incentives to employers to support retaining and recruiting young people not in education employment or training (NEET) into work.

Think Rural is an offshoot of the CRP aimed at the rural sector.

Noa Woolloff, National Programme Coordinator, MTFJ

After becoming a dad at 16, Noa Woolloff wasted no time in setting up a not-for-profit to help young parents in New Zealand to access leadership development opportunities. After leaving school, his next role was with Inspiring Stories in a youth engagement position, before he joined LGNZ on the MTFJ programme.

A regular talent in the media, Noa’s stories and profile have gone as far as the Daily Mail and TEDx. A regular on the speaking circuit, has presented at the Social Enterprise World Forum 2018 in Edinburgh, Scotland and was the keynote address at the New Zealand Youth Awards.

Outside of his role, Noa enjoys spending time with his young daughter, getting outdoors and cracking Dad jokes. He also runs his own podcast series, Beyond the Surface, which profiles inspiring kiwis taking the road less travelled.

Max Baxter, Ōtorohanga Mayor

Max Baxter is the Mayor of the Ōtorohanga district, a rural community of approximately 10,000 residents in the central North Island of New Zealand. As a local farm owner in Ōtorohanga, Max understands the importance of retaining the vibrancy, culture and pride of the community. The key focus for Max’s Mayoralty is promoting a vibrant district for our children and grandchildren in a changing demographic and planting seeds for a better future.

Outside of Council Max enjoys spending time with wife Lindsay and their son and daughter when they are home from university. And also the opportunist round of golf and enjoys time at the beach.

© Scoop Media

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