Hamilton City Council wants government funding to help provide civics education in high schools.
At today’s Council meeting, elected members unanimously agreed to put a remit to the Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) conference next month, asking for support from the sector. Already nine councils, including neighbouring Waikato District Council, have backed the proposal which would see more young people learn about how councils function.
Mayor Paula Southgate, who proposed and led the remit, said there was nothing to lose and everything to gain from helping young people be better informed and more involved in their local communities.
“Part of that is sharing how local government works, including how and why it’s important young people get involved in the decision-making process, early. We have a lot of common interests but we’re not doing enough to help people get involved and stay involved throughout their lives,” she said.
“Councils all across New Zealand are making decisions that impact on young people both now and in the future. Rangitahi, young people have great insights and unique experience but as a sector, we struggle to hear them.”
“Saying that, if they are going to be involved, they also need to be informed,” Southgate said.
“Local councils, which work where young people live, are in a good place to deliver that insight but we need to be resourced properly. Right now, we are not and that is disappointing given young citizens inherit the decisions we make. ”
Southgate acknowledged some materials had been developed for school leavers by the Ministry of Education. Some councils, including Hamilton City Council were “dipping in and out” of civics education, but most councils did not have the resources to work in that space, she said.
“Some Hamilton high schools are doing a great job of helping students understand and get involved in important issues affecting our city. The demand for interaction with our Council is increasing but we cannot deliver what they would like us to which seems a wasted opportunity,” she said.
“Arming young people with the right information and a road map on how councils work would allow them to be more confident and informed citizens in the future. I don’t see any downsides to that.”
Southgate will speak to the Hamilton City Council remit at the LGNZ conference in Blenheim next month. If it wins support, LGNZ will be tasked with advocating to central government for civics education funding.