By DAVID HILL
Thomas Robson wants the views of young people to be heard as Waimakariri looks to the future.
The 21-year-old Oxford-Ohoka Community Board member and Waimakariri Youth Council co-chair says he is concerned the views of his peers could be overlooked as the Waimakariri District Council develops its District Development Strategy (DDS) as it plans for the next 30 years.
Thomas says while rules around lifestyle blocks appear to be attracting the most attention, it is not even on the radar for young people, with many concerned whether they pay the rising rents and save for a deposit to buy a house.
He says issues such as housing, public transport, water issues and changing technology need careful planning or many of today’s young people will be left behind.
“There are some big arguments about processes around lifestyle blocks, but that’s going to be irrelevant for young people if the houses at the bottom of the ladder are unaffordable.
“We need to be thinking now about how do we keep prices down and affordable?”
Thomas has recently bought a house in Oxford, but says it was only possible with the support of his parents and the fact he doesn’t have a student loan.
“It has taken a year and a half trying to find a bank that will do a mortgage with a deposit under 20 percent and to be honest there’s not a lot of houses in Rangiora and Oxford in the first home buyers bracket.
“The biggest hurdle has been convincing a bank that I can actually make the payments.”
The first home buyers bracket means $350,000 or less, meaning a 20% deposit is up to $70,000.
Thomas says young people find it difficult to engage with politics and feel under-represented.
“In some of the consultation they have young people coming along, but they leave feeling like they weren’t heard, so they won’t say it again.
“I just went to the community boards conference and we don’t have a lot of young people on community boards and councils because it’s hard to work it around a 45 to 50 hour a week job – especially if you’re working in Christchurch and don’t have the flexibility, how can you do it?”
He says young people are acutely aware of rapidly changing technology and many fear they could be forced to retrain for new careers several times, incurring more debt through student loans and making it impossible to save for a deposit on a house.
Thomas has taken to Facebook to engage with young people and has 300 likes on his page and his posts before each community board meeting generate between 2000 and 3000 views.