OPINION: A new study released this week has brought some illuminating insight into how young people view Southland and their lives here, while also reinforcing the old saying that "kids say the darndest things".
Our Way Southland commissioned a focus-group study of 128 children and young people aged between 7 and 24, to get their perspectives on growing up and living in Southland, and their views on parenting. Apparently, they found "some priceless stuff".
Not surprisingly, they liked living in Southland and realised it was a good place to raise a family. But, of course, most lamented a lack of fun things to do and many said they planned to leave when they were old enough.
They wanted more things to do - for free, of course - and better transport, shops and places to hang out.
Here's a taste of some of the comments: "We don't have a theme park like Rainbows End or Disneyland."
"No entertainment things . . . that's cheap."
"Invercargill's clean but I think it's quite dirty in some places."
"So many kids [and gangstas] are hanging out there [Wachner Place] and causing trouble the cops put ‘no congregating' signs up and they just stand in front of them."
"I know what makes a bad Dad - trying to make jokes when your friends are around."
We're sorry, but what?
The report reads like a thesis by an enthusiastic young university student. It would be quite an amusing read if it wasn't for the fact that it cost $26,000 of your money. That's $26,000 spent on talking to children about how they feel.
It's hard to see what benefits this will bring to the province, but it gets worse.
The study is part of the Strengthening Parenting in Southland project, being co-ordinated by Our Way Southland (funded by the province's four local authority councils), which has the lofty goal of producing a "regional parenting strategy". It follows research carried out last year with parents and caregivers, with the two projects meant to "help inform the evidence base underpinning this strategy".
Huh? What exactly is a regional parent strategy? Why do we need one? And how does any of this come under the definition of core business for any of the four councils?
We already know Southland suffers from an image problem. We know there are issues with transport - it is a large, sparsely populated rural province. A low population makes it difficult for businesses to obtain economies of scale. We know not having a university means the brightest students will always leave for further education. We know young people can get a bit bored because there isn't a vast number of things to do.
Well, here's a bit of reality - it's like this all over the country. Go to any provincial town and you'll hear the same complaints. Southland is a small province in a small, yet geographically big, country. It costs money to do things and to go places. That's just life.
It certainly isn't the place of any of the councils to step in and start creating things to keep young people entertained. That's not a council's core business. If there was an economic benefit, business would have stepped in to make money from it. Obviously the low population makes that a challenge.
We're prepared to make a prediction - this study will be collated into the regional parenting strategy, which will talk about doing a whole bunch of things to improve parenting in Southland. It will be released with great fanfare and praise . . . and nothing will be heard of it again. And you'll have paid for it.
- © Fairfax NZ News
Why do women live longer?Related story: 100 good reasons for birthday bash