Youth Voices Forum

I had the privilege yesterday of listening to the presentations made at the Youth Voices Challenge here in Christchurch. The event was jointly organised by the NZ UNESCO Sub commission in conjunction with the WE SPEAK 2011 event run by the White Elephant Trust and Otautahi Youth Council.

The event sought to bring together 25 young leaders from ‘generation Y‘ to ensure that the voices of young people are heard in the process of visioning the future of Christchurch after the earthquakes here. They’d worked together from 6pm on the Friday evening through to lunchtime on Saturday to pull together a range of ideas and possible projects that may be pursued.The initial outcome from this event was the development of a capability statement that will collated and presented as part of a briefing to the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) and the Christchurch City Council as they plan the way forward.

Key points made by the group in their presentations yesterday (which included a group of local MPs and other city officials) were:

  • an holistic approach to the rebuild (sustainable, inclusive, community engagement)
  • don’t simply do a rebuild of what was there already
  • provide a model that can underpin efforts internationally, at sites of other disasters

There was strong support for keeping creativity and innovation to the fore, promoting risk taking in the way ideas are adopted in terms of the architecture of the city, including an emphasis on green technology. The group certainly had an eye on the long term future, and thinking through the  impact that any decisions made in the immediate term for economic and social reasons may have in the longer term.

A  quote from one of the city leaders in the audience at the meeting that resonated with me was:

“If we lose this generation because they’re more mobile and not as asset rich, if we don’t keep them in the city and involve them in the process of rebuilding, then this city has no future”

There was certainly no doubting the optimism and sense of energy and enthusiasm in the room. The overall sense was that we have been presented with an opportunity that we need to take seriously, and there were plenty of minds in this room ready and willing to contribute to that. As MP Ruth Dyson said: “We’re certainly going to get there, we just don’t know where ‘there’ is yet.”



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