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Last week nine Christchurch youth aged between 14 and 24 attended a two-day hui to get involved in local water management.
The hui was organised by Environment Canterbury in conjunction with the Canterbury Water Christchurch – West Melton Zone Committee.
Sian Carvell, Environment Canterbury Youth Engagement Team Leader, said the goals and values of the Canterbury Water Management Strategy (CWMS) require young people to be involved.
“The vision of the CWMS is to enable present and future generations the greatest social, economic, recreational and cultural benefits from our water resources within an environmentally sustainable framework.
“Much of the work being done by each of Canterbury’s ten zone committees on improving local water management will benefit our children and their children. For this reason it is vital we get young people involved in the process now and ensure they have the information and the interest to contribute.
“By doing this now we can ensure their views are captured while also building capacity as Canterbury works towards achieving the water management targets in the CWMS,” she said.
On the first day of the hui participants undertook a full-day field trip to visit significant sites for water management in Christchurch and hear from local experts.
The sites included the Waimakariri River, Te Huingi Manu – oxidation ponds reserve, and the Groynes. Speakers included representatives from Environment Canterbury, CDHB, the Ihutai Trust, and Ngai Tahu.
Following the field trip the students went to Rehua Marae to reflect on the days’ activities and learn about Ngai Tahu values, before staying the night on the marae.
The next day the group was welcomed by Environment Canterbury Commissioner David Caygill and heard from the Ministry of Youth Development on how to get the voice of youth heard.
This was followed by a facilitated session on the Christchurch-West Melton Zone Implementation Programme (ZIP) and its vision for local water management. The group made a formal response to the ZIP and intend to speak to it at the next committee meeting next month,
Zone Committee Chair Ian Fox said the opportunity to get young people involved in local water management decisions was invaluable.
“We were very impressed with the attitude and interest shown by the participants in the hui. As a zone committee it is our job to work with locals to make effective water management decisions and young people are an important part of the community so it is vital their views are captured.
“The feedback we received from participants was well thought out and it will be top-of-mind as we look to bring together our recommendations for local water management.
“We look forward to receiving their written response along with the views of the wider community when we release our draft Zone Implementation Programme (ZIP) for water management in the coming weeks,” he said.
Each of the ten zone committees is required to work with its community to bring together a programme of recommendations for water management in its zone to give effect to vision and values in the CWMS.
The Christchurch - West Melton Zone Committee has been working since November 2011 to understand the major water management issues in the zone.
The Christchurch youth hui is the first in what is hoped to be a series across the ten CWMS zones.
Local government and regional authorities are bound by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child to provide civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights to all children and young people.
Sian Carvell said the success of this, the first, hui paves the way for other zone committee’s to look at ways of engaging with youth.
“The Christchurch hui was very much a pilot scheme and the feedback we have received gives us confidence that we will be able to give more young people a say in Canterbury.
“The students now have an increased awareness and understanding around water use and management and we are sure they will take what they have learnt back to their peers and encourage them to get involved too,” she said.
The nine students came from Hillmorton High School, Unlimited Paenga Tawhiti, CPIT, Lincoln University, and the University of Canterbury.