New Plymouth has passionate people who are committed to the health and wellbeing of young people.
Thank you for inviting me to be a part of this celebration today. It's a pleasure for me to be here.
When I was asked to attend this event, I was at a conference in Sydney on adolescent health. I knew then that New Plymouth had passionate people, committed to the health and wellbeing of young people.
I know what a struggle it has been to get to this point, and I appreciate that the struggle is not yet over.
Funding support has been particularly difficult but I anticipate - as we continue to build the case and evidence for youth-friendly health services - that this should change over time. And we must continue to drive that change
I met Louise at a Youth Health Conference in November last year. I suspect it was at a point where she had just decided that that it was "now or never'. If you have a dream, there's a point at which you just have to get out there and do it, and Louise had made the decision to do just that.
I know that more cautious people were saying "Don't take the risk"; "Wait till you've secured long term funding".
But sometimes you just have to take the plunge, and trust that you will inspire others to follow.
You've named this Youth Health service "Waves", partly I understand, to commemorate the contribution of the late Richard Parsons from your own community. Someone committed to young people in this role as a youth drug and alcohol counsellor, and a man who was passionate about surfing.
"Waves" is a very fitting metaphor for a youth health service. When you think about surfing and the ocean, there's an immediate sense of self-awareness when confronted with a huge ocean, its tides and currents, its waves and many moods.
The metaphor is appropriate as I said earlier because everyday young people are confronted with many challenges - some predictable, some less so.
The important point however of a successful youth health service is to empower young people to make positive choices, to equip them with the necessary skills to build resilience, and to build better health and wellbeing.
I know from personal experience what a challenge it is to get young people's issues advanced. But I know that when we do, we can make a real difference.
The Ministry of Youth Development - is looking at what makes youth programmes and youth services successful.
What makes the difference? It's the involvement of young people. Health services particularly. Services that are "youth-friendly" - that deliver the services that young people want, by people who like and respect young people, in a setting that young people are comfortable in - these services are far more likely to be used. All the evidence confirms it.
As I noted at last year's Youth Health Services meeting (organised by NZAHD and the DHB Youth Funders), young people face health issues that are different from other age groups. And they require a more specialised approach to health services.
That meeting was also invaluable for creating alliances, networking and sharing knowledge among the health sector.
I would like to take this opportunity to reaffirm the importance that youth health services play in young people's development - as distinct from mainstream health services.
Back to Waves - this is a service New Plymouth's young people have said that they wanted.
Young people have been involved in advocating for it, and have been involved in its design. Young people are helping to deliver services - as peer support workers, and are responsible for organising today's celebration.
The service is certain to be a success.
The frustrating thing is, that you often have to prove the point - that there is a demand, and that you can meet that demand - before the bigger funding agencies will come to the party.
But today is the day for thanking all those who have supported the centre.
I know Louise would want me to acknowledge all those people who have given time, money, and materials to "Waves". Lots of you are here today.
- Local businesses - I know without all your support and your generous donation of goods and materials the centre wouldn't have been able to open.
- Vodafone - for funding the peer support workers
- Health Care Aotearoa - you've been tireless in your advocacy for this centre
- The medical and nursing staff at the centre who are donating their time to make this work. Thank you.
I want to make particular mention of the New Plymouth District Council and its vision.
Your Council is making a very real commitment to the region's young people. The fact that you've got a Youth Strategy for your district shows that your Council appreciates - perhaps better than many Councils - that in creating a 'youth friendly city', a city that values its young people and provides opportunities for them to grow and develop - you are creating a city they'll want to stay in. Or at least return to when they've done with studying and travelling.
We're here today to open a health centre.
But health is about more than about health services, vital as they are. "Health" is the sum total of a whole lot of things.
It is about the environment we live in. Having opportunities to be creative and stimulated. Being able to participate in decision making.
Knowing that you are valued as a member of the community, and that your contribution counts.
For young people it's about getting that positive affirmation that matters - from family, at school, and from your community.
This is what youth development is all about.
New Plymouth seems to be doing this very well. I congratulate you all.
I am delighted to declare "Waves" officially open.