Aotearoa Youth Declaration is an annual conference for High School Students which connects young people with government policy. Participants work in Focus Groups to develop policy statements that represent their views and priorities on a range of subjects. The statements below were drafted by the participants of the Environment Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

4.1 As youth, we have the greatest stake in ensuring intergenerational equity be upheld. We acknowledge the effort New Zealand is already making to combat climate change. However, given the urgency of the issue, we are concerned that not enough is being done and that our targets lack ambition.
4.2 We are concerned about the integrity of New Zealand’s use of carbon credits and the resulting lack of accountability. We urge that the Government: only allow domestic carbon credits to be valid, relinquish double credits generated by changes in LULUCF regulations, and forfeit its stockpile of fraudulent foreign credits.
4.3 We are troubled by the impact of intensive agricultural practices on the environment. We propose the implementation of incentives for farmers to be more sustainable and ecologically conscious, while deterring the continuation of harmful practices.
4.4 Our rivers are tapu and a taonga to be shared by all. We are alarmed by the consequences of runoff and the weak standards used to label our rivers as swimmable. Therefore, we recommend strengthening regulations and the enforcement of freshwater quality standards, along with incentivising nitrogen-efficient farming to protect our waterways.
4.5 We believe that the conservation of New Zealand’s marine biodiversity is inadequate and that we have failed to act as kaitiaki. We urge the Government to resume direct monitoring of commercial fishing vessels, expand Marine Reserves to cover at least 1% of our territorial waters and extend Marine Protected Areas to include parts of our Exclusive Economic Zone. We also support a total ban on oil exploration and drilling in our waters, and the development of alternative industries in regions whose economies rely heavily on the oil and gas sector.
4.6 We are concerned about the ineffectiveness of waste management systems and their current impact. We recommend implementing improvements such as, but not limited to: banning plastic bags and styrofoam, a paid bottle return system, improving food scrap and e-waste processing, increasing public understanding of existing waste systems, and funding a new programme for sorted recycling in all schools.
4.7 We advise that it be mandatory for information regarding GHG emissions, contamination caused by fertilisers, and other environmental harms involved in the production of goods to be made publicly available. This would promote greater transparency and accountability, as well as enable consumers to make informed, ethical and health-conscious decisions.
A group of students leap into the air. In the center, one of the students holds a sign that reads “environment” and shows a leaf design.

An enormous thanks to the Focus Group participants, the Facilitators – Kevin and Tony, the Conference Organising Committee, and the Event Sponsors.