Youth MPs calling out Government inaction

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Pakuranga Youth MP Maya McNeill with Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown. Times photo Chris Harrowell

Budding young east Auckland politicians have seized the chance to quiz the Government about major issues including housing affordability and mental health.

Three local teenagers were among the future leaders taking part in the recent 2022 Youth Parliament in Wellington.

Former Botany Downs Secondary College head boy Aryan Bhatnagar was chosen to represent Botany MP and National Party leader Christopher Luxon as his Youth MP.

Elim Christian College pupil Maya McNeill represented Pakuranga MP Simeon Brown, and Grace Pickering (Times, August 3) represented Botany-based Labour List MP Naisi Chen.

The two-day Youth Parliament is held every three years and gives young Kiwis the chance to learn about the country’s democracy.

It was staged from July 19-20 with the Youth MPs’ full term running from March 1 to August 31.

The ambitious youngsters advocate for their community, debate issues and legislation, sit on select committees and ask questions of their peers and Government ministers in Parliament’s debating chamber.

Maya had the chance to quiz Associate Housing Minister Marama Davidson during the Youth Parliament’s question time.

She asked Davidson what plans, if any, are under way to support young people hoping to enter the property market in the future.

Davidson said it’s of vital importance young people are supported into housing and have a place to live.

“This is fundamental to our wellbeing,” she said.

“This also means treating housing as a human right.

“It is not just about supporting young people to enter the property market but about ensuring that every young person has access to a safe and secure home.”

Maya followed up by asking Davidson what she says to young people who don’t believe they’ll ever be able to enter the property market.

Davidson said she’s disappointed anyone, but especially young people, would find it difficult to be able to live in their own secure home.

She said she works very hard with her ministerial colleagues to prioritise young people across the spectrum of housing supply and make sure the Government “ramps up” public and transitional housing to “take the pressure off housing unaffordability”.

Botany Youth MP Aryan Bhatnagar, right, with Botany MP and National Party leader Christopher Luxon. Times photo Wayne Martin

During the Youth Parliament general debate, Aryan delivered a speech about his work as Youth MP to audit the Botany electorate’s mental health system.

He said he found there’s no integrated national mental health strategy.

“I found a system that was pigeonholed and disjointed, with various stakeholders disconnected from each other due to a lack of communication infrastructure between various departments.

“I found this system to be incredibly response-focused, with no real standardised effort towards more prevention.”

Aryan said it’s clear the Government has “dropped the ball” on the issue and is insisting on unnecessary centralisation of the sector rather than fleshed-out policy and real outcomes.

Mental health, like most social issues, is not ideological, he said.

“A depressed, suicidal and anxious youth does not make for a wealthy, prosperous nation.

“Only when we drop the political fluff and take real action can we ensure that the mental health outcomes our country needs are met.”