Councillors Moko Tepania and Rachel Smith might have whooped with joy when they won the bid to host this year’s national Young Elected Members (YEMs) hui in the Far North, but what they are most excited about is bringing young leaders together to learn about the local whenua and history.
“Our kaupapa for this hui is Anga Whakamua: Setting our collective course. And what better place to do that than in the birthplace of Aotearoa New Zealand. We’re stoked we’ll be able to show off the Far North to fellow young elected members, especially with so much change on the horizon for local government,” says Moko Tepania, a Far North District Councillor and a teacher at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Kaikohe.
The national hui will bring together over 100 young elected members from across the country on 27-30 October 2021. It’s the first time the region has hosted this important meeting of young leaders.
Rachel Smith, who is also a Far North District Councillor and serves on her local community board, says that this hui will be so important to the young elected members as they look to make a tangible difference in Aotearoa.
“This hui will give us the opportunity to carve out a pathway alongside fellow young rangatira, and to support each other to drive positive change in our communities. We see this work we do together as an investment in future generations. We have seen growing inequity during our own lifetimes and we want to do something about it. We’re taking on the challenge of how to increase diversity of representation in local government so there’s incredible richness of thought embedded into the fabric of local government,” she says.
Young people are already seeing greater representation on community boards and councils every year, with numbers of young, elected members (those under 40) up from 6 percent in the 2016 elections to 14 percent in the 2019 elections. With issues like the long-term effects of the global pandemic and climate change being such hot topics, Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) believes that the 2022 elections will attract even more young leaders impatient to help their communities and the environment.
“The face of local government is always changing to reflect its communities and their needs. There is a growing role for young people, and particularly for young Māori, to take leadership roles in their towns and cities and bring about positive change,” LGNZ President Stuart Crosby says.
“It’s critical we hear these voices. That’s why the annual YEM hui is so important, as it allows all our young, elected members to come together and discuss what they can do to make a difference.”
The programme for this year’s hui includes:
- a welcome at the Manea Tapuwae ā Nuku (Footprints of Kupe) cultural centre in Ōmāpere, followed by a guided tour of local heritage through art, taonga, film, performance and more.
- a two-day hui at the Mātihetihe Marae at Mitimiti
- two days in the Bay of Islands including visiting the birthplace of bi-cultural New Zealand, the Waitangi Treaty Grounds, and a ferry ride to Russell.