From our Chair: Engaging with Canterbury's youth

The young people of today are the leaders of tomorrow.

Jenny Hughey

Jenny Hughey, Chair, Environment Canterbury

Some in fact are already moving and shaking, guiding their peers to be community-minded, and steering thinking and actions along paths that will protect and renew our environment and help mitigate climate change.

Young people may not yet pay rates, but their contribution to the region is enormous in many other ways.

At Environment Canterbury we are keen to harness the vision of our young people and ensure they have their say.

Our draft Long-Term Plan 2021-31, specifically makes provision for youth engagement and education, and sets out what we would like to do to increase that.

Our Youth Rōpū

Our Youth Ropū (pictured above), which enables young people to work with councillors and staff and offers activities across Canterbury, is already preparing to engage and consult on the draft Long-Term Plan.

The group will be hosting a series of events around the region and in the digital domain to ensure young people’s voices are heard in its submission on the plan, and to help and encourage people to make their own submissions to the regional council.

Enviroschools programme

Kaikōura Enviroschools education day

One of the great successes at getting young people involved in crucial environmental issues and in debate about climate change is the national Enviroschools initiative.

For this we provide educational resources to schools and communities and coordinate around 100 schools in the programme, giving youngsters the chance to experiment, design and lead their own sustainability projects.

Enviroschools encourages nature-based thinking and is so popular there are currently about 50 schools on the waiting list. The programme is doing fantastically well, and the schools and kids love it.

We want to roll Enviroschools out right across Canterbury and in the draft Long-Term Plan (option 1) we propose adding another 35 Enviroschools and early childhood centres to the programme.

The idea is to offer another 25 from this year’s waiting list by the end of 2022-23, and the remaining 10 the following year.

In November last year, students from the Heathcote Valley and Waitākiri primary schools’ Enviroschools programmes presented their submission on the Christchurch City Council’s Draft Waste Management and Minimisation plan.

This was a wonderful example of what can come out of the Enviroschools programme.

Youth engagement and education

Our talented Environment Canterbury educators engage young people through their heads, hearts and hands. As well as Enviroschools, we offer targeted programmes and various field activities.

Other youth engagement has focused on the annual regional Youth Voice hui, monthly youth meetings, our relationship with Youth Voice Canterbury, and involvement with Water Zone Committees, including running a mock zone-committee meeting in the Selwyn-Waihora zone.

Our young people offer a massive opportunity to work towards an improved region. They have the energy, and in many cases more time to get involved in issues than their parents, and a critical interest in the future.

They also often see matters more clearly, without the baggage that comes with getting older.

Young people have already done so much for Canterbury. Think of their passion when Environment Canterbury was debating, and declaring, a climate emergency.

And remember the huge efforts of the Student Volunteer Army to help the most affected residents and neighbourhoods after the 2010-11 earthquakes.

It's great to be able to offer these opportunities for community service early on. If you get a taste of doing this when you are young, you will be so much more practised at volunteering when you are older.