Mosquito buzzers in Garden Place won't get the youth voting
OPINION: As it is in many elections, youth issues are again being overlooked. Teenagers such as myself who have turned 18 within the past two years are now able to exercise our right to vote for the first time in these elections, but really, we're given no incentive.
In Hamilton, only two mayoral candidates have explicitly mentioned youth issues in their online profiles; Arshad Chatha, and Dave MacPherson, who has stopped campaigning in the hopes that voters will move their support to Ewan Wilson.
To my knowledge neither Mr Wilson or the incumbent candidate Julie Hardaker have made mention of youth issues.
There are five main issues to Youth in Hamilton that are being overlooked by the council, and have been for a number of years. In an informal poll on my own Facebook and Twitter pages, these were the most popular.
Despite being hailed as 'the place to be', there's no incentive for youth to hang out in this public space. In fact, they attempt to deter us from it by using 'mosquito buzzers', which regularly emit a high frequency beep as an annoyance to stop us from loitering around the area.
They also give us no other areas in the central city that can be a safe space for us to hang out in the sunlight and be teenagers. They wonder why the youth of Hamilton are off getting themselves into trouble; it's because there is very little alternative place for us to go.
Affordable Public Transport
I, and everyone else I know, has noticed that the price of public transport in Hamilton just keeps going up. A single ticket for a child (or a high school student with an ID) is now $2.20. I remember when this was the adult charge, and the ticket lasted for two hours, not one.
For a teenager on a small budget, either because they're still at school or living away from home, this is a high and often unaffordable charge. Maybe the council should be taking a note from Auckland and installing a 'student discount' and bringing down their prices. Doing so would increase the use of public transport and make a lot of teenagers and parents a lot happier.
Involve youth in elections
Make a point of actually talking to us! Just because this is our first vote doesn't mean it's not important. Having a bad experience of being overlooked by the governing body of the city can leave teenagers with no incentive to vote again. Instead of giving us a reason to be apathetic by being the same to our issues, make a stand and be the candidate that involves everyday youth and our concerns.
Accessibility to public services like mental health support
Most teens I asked we're aware of any Mental Health services aimed specifically at them. I'm unsure if they're there or not, but the point is that if they are, we don't know it.
With such a high suicide and depression rate in Hamilton among youth (in 2005 Hamilton had one of the highest rates, with 18.6 per 100,000 15-24 year olds), these services should be posted up on every school and library notice board.
We need to know they're there, and if they aren't, the council should be doing their best to introduce them before more teens lose hope in themselves and don't receive the help they need.
Safe spaces to just be teenagers
It's obvious by the use of 'mosquito buzzers' that teens aren't welcome in Garden Place. Instead of deterring us from somewhere, find a place we can go. A place that is safe for teenagers to just hang out and be ourselves. The introduction of national youth program Zeal is a start, but just one place won't be enough.
As teenagers, we have issues that are specific and important to us. The current council has long ignored that, and it seems the new candidates have continued to do so. We're the next generation of council members and ratepayers, but if you're ignoring us now, what makes you think we'll care later?
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