BY ETHAN GRIFFITHS
In March and May this year, tens of thousands of people across New Zealand walked out of their classrooms, university lectures, and workplaces to march across their cities to bring attention to the climate crisis and the government’s lack of action on the issue. It was the largest display of youth power seen in this country in years, and had an effect on how youth were approached, listened to and consulted on matters concerning them.
On March 15, two students from New Plymouth Girls High School, Nikita Taiapa and Jezza Vivian, were in those crowds marching for action on the climate crisis. The two teenagers quickly came to the conclusion that this was an issue which affected youth drastically, and an issue that young people were motivated to take action on.
Motivated by the issue, both Nikita attended the Just Transition Conference in New Plymouth, exploring the ways that Taranaki must transition from an economy reliant on oil and gas to a sustainable and low emissions future. They heard from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Director James Cameron, and other local and international leaders on the issue. Nikita was a panelist on the Youth Panel, which she seemingly saw as nothing but tokenistic.
“They hardly mentioned the word youth, they didn’t even really talk about it at all. We were really shocked, and other people were as well. So we wanted to take it into our own hands”
And take it into their own hands is exactly what they did. The two students went about setting up their own conference with the main goal of engaging young people and hearing their perspective.
“We wanted to do the youth version of that conference, and take the information and ideas that were happening there and really cater it to youth”
The two students approached their school, who were more than happy to provide the use of the school hall for the conference. They approached local businesses to provide funding and their resources to help make the conference a success. Entrepreneur and Girlboss NZ founder Alexia Hilbertidou headlines the conference as keynote speaker, with Green MP and the youngest MP in the NZ Parliament Chloe Swarbrick speaking also, joined by 26-year-old Hamilton Mayoral Candidate Louise Hutt. Other speakers include the NZ Coordinator of School Strike 4 Climate Sophie Handford, and a youth panel featuring youth from all over the country.
The free day-long conference is set to include everything from keynote speakers to break out sessions, where attendees can get to work sharing their ideas on what needs to change, and what they can do to make that change happen. While the conference is entirely youth-led, anyone of any age is invited to attend. No one is too old or too young.
When asked about what the planet needs to do to survive, Nikita says the answer is simple.
“You know, I actually believe that it all comes down to everyone just doing something, starting somewhere, no matter how small it may be.”
“It’s about transitioning a whole way of living.”
“Youth need to start stepping up and having their voices heard. It is our future, and by speaking up, we’re actually building ourselves as the leaders of tomorrow.”
The Voices of the Future Conference will be held at New Plymouth Girls High School on Saturday, August 31st. Registration is free. Check out the details and register by clicking here.
ETHAN GRIFFITHS is Tearaway’s Political Editor. Young, passionate and a wannabe babysitter for Neve Ardern, Ethan won’t stop talking about politics. Likes a bit of cricket, wearing trendy ties and is in love with Jeff the purple wiggle.