Effective Participation for Children and Young People in Council DecisionMaking
Local councils in New Zealand are entrusted with the task of making decisions for the communities they represent. Public participation provides an opportunity for groups and individuals that have a justifiable interest in a matter to have their thoughts and opinions legitimately considered by those making decisions. The extent to which decision makers are aware of the consequences of their decisions, is then dependent on the effectiveness of the participation undertaken by local councils. Public participation is now an obligation on behalf of local councils and is increasingly encapsulating the diversity of communities that exist in New Zealand. Despite these developments, local councils frequently fail to provide appropriate methods of participation for children and young people. Children and young people value and make use of their surrounding environment in ways that differ from that of an adult. The inclusion of children and young people in planning processes provides an opportunity to establish this unique perspective and cater for it in the built environment. Despite the benefits of including of children and young people in council decision-making being well established in planning theory, methods of engagement continually fail to provide for their needs. The way in which children and young people interact with their environment plays a fundamental role in their development as citizens. It is therefore essential that children and young people be given the opportunity to fully participate in decisions that impact upon these interactions. This research explored the extent to which children and young people are being appropriately engaged with in local council decision-making. In achieving this, three case study councils were critically examined on their approach to engaging with children and young people. Key informant interviews were carried out at each case study council and at the Central North Island Office of the Ministry of Youth Development. Research also involved questionnaires given to each case study council’s associated youth council members. Four key findings were established through an analysis of data collected from key informant interviews and questionnaires. The first finding is that children and young people have the necessary capacity to contribute in a meaningful way to council decision-making. The second finding is that the inclusion of children and young people in council decision-making remains inadequate, primarily due to challenges associated with council procedure and the frequent incorrect choice of method for engagement. The third finding is that planners believe their role in council does not require a direct relationship with children and young people. The fourth finding is that there exists a gap in what is being promoted in theory and what is being implemented in practice. Four recommendations have been formulated on a basis of key findings. The first is to promote the use and implementation of strategies and staff dedicated to participation involving children and young people. The second recommends the modification of council procedure to better provide for the needs of children and young people. Recommendation three is to increase community awareness of the benefits associated with participation involving children and young people. The final recommendation is to encourage the use of diverse, flexible and targeted methods of participation when engaging with children and young people.
Advisor: Freeman , Claire
Degree Name: Master of Planning
Degree Discipline: Geography
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Children; participation; consultation; planning; councils
Research Type: Thesis