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Closure Of Whanganui Youth Council

The Whanganui District Council has decided to axe the Whanganui District Council Youth Council as part of its long-term plan, a decision that came as a shock to the Youth Councillors and community.

This week, the Whanganui District Council conducted publicly accessible meetings to outline the services and projects slated for reduction or removal in order to maintain more affordable rates. Unfortunately, the Youth Council found itself among the casualties despite its vital role in providing a platform for rangatahi (young people) to engage in local governance actively, voice their concerns, and advocate for issues important to them. The Youth Council was not involved in any consultation before the announcement.

The Whanganui District Council Youth Council has been a cornerstone of youth engagement in local decision-making processes since its establishment in 2006. The decision to disestablish the Youth Council is estimated to save $51,000 per annum for the council.

Councillor Phillipa Baker-Hogan and Mayor Andrew Tripe have cited "emotive areas" as targets for cost-saving measures. However, with the recent closure of the Ashburton Youth Council and the consideration of axing the Gore Youth Council, is this becoming a trend?

The Youth Council not only provides opportunities for rangatahi to participate in council and leadership contexts actively but also allocates funding for crucial youth initiatives, promotes awareness, and fosters knowledge among young people. Its disestablishment sends a concerning message about the council's priorities and its dedication to the well-being and inclusion of young voices in decision-making processes.

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Some Councillors and former council staff have voiced their support for the Youth Councillors, and opposition to the decision.

Youth Councillor Lola Fisher says, “We’ve poured our hearts into representing young people in our community, only to feel dismissed and overlooked. Young people are active stakeholders in the decisions being made by local councils, and our voices deserve to be heard and considered. By dismantling the youth council, we risk perpetuating a cycle of disengagement from local government politics.”

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