For two days last month Wellington came alive with the thoughts of young New Zealanders as 120 Youth MPs (and some Youth Press Gallery members) participated in the triennial Youth Parliament.
Youth Parliament provides a wonderful opportunity for each electorate and list MP to be represented by a senior high school or territory student chosen to articulate the concerns and ideas of their peers.
Participants experience opportunities to speak in Parliamentary debates, put questions to ministers, consider ideas in detail in mock select committees, and gain a thorough understanding of how our Parliamentary democracy operates.
Henry Yao of Glenview proved to be an outstanding representative for the Hamilton West electorate and I was very proud of him. Henry attends Hamilton Boys’ High School and was chosen from an impressive field of local applicants late last year. His speech in the debate over environmental sustainability was well crafted and delivered with flair. I was particularly impressed with his ability to respond to the contributions of previous speakers and to interjections.
Henry was also elected to chair the Health Select Committee, which he did very competently.
Reflecting on his experience Henry wrote:
It was incredibly exciting and a privilege to sit in Tim’s chair in Parliament as the Youth MP for Hamilton West and to have the opportunity to represent the views of our electorate’s young people as we discussed many important issues affecting youth during my time in Wellington.
My highlights of Youth Parliament included speaking in a mock legislative debate on sustainable energy and having the opportunity to be part of, and chair, the Health Select Committee as we inquired into what we can do to lower the rate of suicide in New Zealand.
The whole experience was also a fantastic way to learn more about how our democracy functions and I am grateful to have met and made friends with so many young people from across the country.
I would like to thank Tim for selecting me to be Hamilton West’s Youth MP and for his support during my time in Wellington. I would also like to thank the Youth Parliament 2019 organisers for delivering such an incredible opportunity for youth around the country.
All of the Waikato and Bay of Plenty representatives took full advantage of their opportunities and represented their electorates, MPs and young New Zealanders very well.
I was pleased that much of the 2019 Youth Parliament was televised and only regret that it isn’t possible for the event to be held more than once every three years.
I have no doubt that many people watching thought that the young representatives were considerably better than those of us who usually fill the Parliamentary benches, and I’m sure that many of the 2019 Youth MPs will one day stand for public office and serve their communities very well.
As a whole, they were a diverse, passionate, articulate and highly capable group, and they fill me with confidence that the future of New Zealand is in excellent hands.