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Panel gives youth a voice

JESS ETHERIDGE
Last updated 05:00 09/11/2012
Kids Panel

KIDS SPEAK: Kaipatiki Children’s Panel members from Northcote Intermediate School with local board member Richard Hills.

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Curbing public drinking or simply fixing a cracked pavement are some of the issues North Shore youth want sorted.

The Kaipatiki Children's Panel has been created by local board member Richard Hills, 26, as a way to pick the brains of three groups of intermediate students on local issues.

The panel - made up of students from Birkdale, Glenfield and Northcote intermediates - will report back to the local board with ideas for improving Kaipatiki.

When he was 15 years old, Mr Hills and his friends spoke with the former Glenfield Community Board and says he found it was not easy for young people to approach their local boards.

He wants to create an enthusiasm for politics by meeting with the groups once a term.

Northcote's deputy principal Helen Parry says 15 students were chosen from an initiative the school runs to foster leaders.

Student and children's panel member Jordan Makasini, 11, says "it's good having a child's opinion" on community issues.

Northcote students highlighted overflowing drains and lack of pedestrian crossings as two issues which need solving.

And more bike lanes would encourage people to "get out more", Taylor Haines, 12, says.

Ella Shepherd, 11, says the experience has piqued her interest in having a role in her community when she is older.

Mr Hills wants students from all backgrounds to be involved, including kids who may not be obvious leaders.

The first meetings took place last term with students discussing boy racers, cracked pavements and drinking in parks.

Some issues are minor and can be fixed quickly, Mr Hills says, but larger issues such as playgrounds and pedestrian crossings will take time.

Young voices add weight to an issue, he says, which can help convince politicians to get involved.

But making local boards accessible for youth is key.

"A lot of people don't know we have a public forum.

"The more community engagement, the more you know what the community wants," Mr Hills says.

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- North Shore Times

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