A Year 12 Mahurangi College student has become the youngest member of the Auckland Council Youth Advisory Panel (YAP), where she will represent Rodney young people for the next three years.
Julia Caulfield, 16, of Rainbows End, Matakana, is one of 21 panel members selected from around 230 applicants aged between 16 and 24 that were inducted by Mayor Phil Goff in Auckland last month.
The YAP was set up by former Mayor Len Brown in 2011 to offer young people’s perspectives and advice on Council policy and issues, such as housing, transport, planning and the environment.
Julia had already been on the Rodney YAP for two years, then applied to join the Auckland Council YAP in April. She will attend up to four meetings and four workshops a year, and will receive the same meetings and travel allowances as councillors.
She says her priorities will be to engage young people more in politics and decision-making, and to push for more facilities for local youth.
“The main thing is we’re really disconnected from Auckland, especially youth,” she says. “Auckland Council doesn’t act like we’re part of Auckland. I want to reunite us more, bring everything closer together and make things in Auckland more accessible.
“We need youth spaces. We’ve got a skate park in Warkworth and The Grange – what else? There’s no other youth space. If you’re not going to a friend’s house, there’s nothing to do. We need a youth centre, or something like that, just a space where we can go.”
Julia would also like to see more active support for youth from the Rodney Local Board, as she believes there is currently a gulf between local government and young people.
“How is Rodney going to be good for youth if local government isn’t supporting youth?” she says.
Away from the LAP, Julia is helping to organise a Kids Voting school election at Mahurangi College to coincide with the General Election. She says it is vital to get young people more involved with politics, not only because it affects them, but because they can influence the result.
“There are 120,000 young people in Auckland. They could change the vote, so we have got to engage them.”