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Gen Z Challenge Council: ‘Bridge The Gap Between Suits And Students’

Southland’s regional council has been challenged to pick up its game and engage with the people who will one day pay the rates.

On Monday evening, 17-year-old Liam Calder presented to Environment Southland as part of its long term plan hearing, imploring the organisation to consider youth.

Calder said he represented all rangatahi who were unable to voice their concerns, pointing out all other councils in the region included a youth voice.

“Think of the submissions you’ve heard and seen today, what is the general age of the submitters?” he asked.

“To ensure young people stay in Southland when they grow up, why not engage with them on their issues, in their region, on problems that will affect them in their lifetimes?”

Calder admitted it was a tall order for Environment Southland to get around the 82 schools he’d counted in the region.

Environment Southland is undergoing its long term plan deliberations. On Monday, it heard from a young person calling for the organisation to embrace youth. Photo: ODT/Supplied

But he did have some ideas from his experience as a member of Invercargill City Council’s youth council.

That included keeping information digestible through avenues such as pocket-sized long term plan information which broke down key points.

“Southland has such a rich and diverse range of people living in it. Don’t solely focus on the ratepayers, we will be the ratepayers one day,” Calder told councillors.

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“Teach us, but more importantly, show us the plans for our future.

“It is time to bridge the gap between the suits and the students.”

As part of his written submission, Calder proposed Environment Southland adopt either a youth reference group or youth council to engage with young people in a safe environment.

The submission was met with widespread positivity from councillors, with chair Nicol Horrell saying it was “quite refreshing” to hear a youth view.

Environment Southland’s long term plan hearing is scheduled across three days this week, ending on Friday.

Deliberations will commence once it is concluded at dates which are yet to be set.

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