Rangatahi fight for taiao

Bay youth give voice to concerns and produce report for decision-makers

Roimata Mihinui Kāhu ki Rotorua






Matariki Mihinui-maxwell is a young wahine toa so concerned about her taiao she set out to do something about it. She knew it wasn’t enough to protest, she had to be at the table where the decisions are made. If not there, then at least in the same room as the decision makers. So began her involvement in the Youth Engagement Project with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council about improving the way we live on our taiao. “The project was to create a plan about how the Bay of Plenty Regional Council would engage with rangatahi on the development of sustainable living. “The engagement plan focuses on community-led solutions to diverse environments to provide perspectives that may not have been considered or identified by the council or government yet.” Matariki, who is currently in Rarotonga with the Tuhourangi-ngati Wahiao kapa, is a Year 12 student at Rotorua Girls’ High School. She is an enthusiastic member of Raukura, which, given her whakapapa, is understandable. She is Tuhourangi-ngati Wahiao, Tahumatua, and Ngati Rangiwewehi. The youth engagement project took about 12 months to investigate and the report was presented earlier this year. It involved 12 rangatahi aged between 16 and 25 and from all around the Bay of Plenty. Matariki was one of the younger members. “The purpose of forming this kaupapa was that it was recognised by our regional council and other key figures that there was little to no involvement with rangatahi from around our lakes. “Specifically, since it is going to be the rangatahi that will be primarily affected by the decisions made by the council regarding the whenua. “The council wanted a way to connect with rangatahi and bolster their presence and input into council decisions.” It was also to help mitigate the risk of exacerbated post-disaster outcomes through enhanced connection to people, place and activity. It wwould also amplify rangatahi voice and leadership roles in decision-making. Matariki said everyone would benefit from improving our team but specifically the next generation, as the change will most likely happen over the next few years. No training was needed for the project but a love of whenua was. The council also came to the party with funding. “When we presented to the council, we asked for $50,00, but since they loved how hard we worked as rangatahi, they gave us $80,00.” In the short term, Youth Plan 2020-2022 had four main focus points ■ Voice: listened to, valued and embedded in decision-making. ■ Wellbeing: supported and strengthened ■ Leadership: self-determination and influence over government policy and communities ■ Transformative change: stakeholder collaboration to mitigate impacts of Covid-19 The long-term goals of the regioinal project are to live sustainably and provide a healthy environment, freshwater life, safe and resilient communities and a vibrant region. According to Matariki, this project was initiated from the strong demand for change from youth voices from around the region and because of the lack of effort from the council to listen to advice from tangata whenua on topics that need to be included. Like the rest of the country, the project participants learned to live with covid. “The only thing Covid stopped us from doing was having monthly meetings in person, but we, alongside most other people, diverted to using zoom.”