Foreign Affairs


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 Foreign Affairs Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

6.1 We value the effort towards moral foreign policy. We place great importance on New Zealand as a multicultural nation. New Zealand has demonstrated strength in moral policy by taking strong stances on controversial issues, such as nuclear policy. We hope to see a continuation of moral foreign policies based on the unique key values held by our nation, particularly respecting both our own and other cultures. We emphasise that moral foreign policy and national interest are not mutually exclusive.
6.2 We recognise New Zealand has a responsibility as a leader in the Asia-Pacific due to our robust democracy, strong economy and humanitarian capability. We applaud the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (MFAT) strides towards stronger sustainable development and security in the Pacific region, as well as their effective humanitarian responses and civil service training for Pacific crises. We encourage MFAT to take stronger stances on contentious Asia Pacific issues including: the genocide in West Papua, the human rights abuses under Filipino President Duterte, as well as democratic issues in Pacific nations.
6.3 While we understand that New Zealand is economically dependent on China, we believe we can encourage an interdependent relationship with China through increasing our dependence on non-agricultural industries, particularly tourism, through initiatives such as travel visas. We believe that through this we would grow our travel sector and gain more political influence.
6.4 We recognise the power imbalance in some international institutions, such as the United Nations, due to the dominance of certain states and the under representation of the Asia region. We acknowledge that this can cause institutional ineffectiveness. In light of this, we strongly support New Zealand’s ongoing efforts to protest veto power in the Security Council and wish to see further reform through the increase of Asian seats and further expansion in the ASEAN free trade area defence agreements and ASEAN Plus Six summits/conventions.
6.5 We believe that the standard of living in many refugee camps is unacceptable. Therefore, we strongly encourage increasing the annual refugee quota to address the rising number of displaced persons and asylum seekers. Furthermore, we discourage complacency regarding the standard of living within refugee camps. To combat this, we urge an increase in funding to non-governmental organisations and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) with the aim of providing basic human needs, such as educational facilities, clean water and sanitation and livable housing conditions
6.6 We recognise the rise of isolationist radical populism and its negative impact on the global economy and traditional collaborative institutions. We recommend that the Government upholds an adaptable globalist approach in light of recent events in the United States, the United Kingdom and the Philippines.

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

Equity


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 Equity Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

5.1 We believe that there is currently not enough reliable information that allows us to fully support the needs of Aotearoa New Zealand’s diverse society. We would like to see more in-depth information gathering about minority communities. In particular, we would like more recognition of people with disabilities and LGBTQIA+ people.
5.2 We acknowledge that it is difficult for migrants, people from low socio-economic backgrounds, and individuals who live in rural areas to access disability support and information. Many people who need this information can struggle to access this information on the Internet. We see that establishing programmes and networks that provide information and support to individuals living with disabilities will ensure better quality of life.
5.3 We recognise that assigning intersex infants a sex/gender at birth causes severe harm to these individual’s long term mental and physical health. We recommend the Government ban medical gender assignment for intersex babies, in order to allow them the freedom of choice over their own identities later in life.
5.4 We are concerned that many schools enforce heteronormative policies, which limit LGBTQIA+ school groups, same sex couples at school balls, the scope of sex education, and gender affirming uniforms. We think these attitudes need to be reconsidered in order to create an inclusive, safe and positive environment for LGBTQIA+ students. We think this will help normalise these relationships and lead to healthy young people and safe sex practices.
5.5 We believe that societal expectations of masculinity and femininity can negatively impact the mental wellbeing of people of all genders. We believe these effects contribute to the existence of rape culture, men’s low levels of engagement with support services and the high rates of men’s suicide. We encourage the use of advertisements and educational materials to help challenge and change these expectations.
5.6 We recognise that both Sign Language and braille are currently not normalised in society which leads to communication barriers, limited learning opportunities and individuals becoming more vulnerable and isolated. We would like to see support for schools, businesses and employers to more commonly incorporate braille and Sign Language into public life.
5.7 We think that a lack of consent education in schools prevents us from understanding our rights and responsibilities in a healthy relationship. We recommend the Ministry of Education require schools to incorporate consent into current health and sex education courses, especially in Year 9 and 10.
A group of students pose together on the stairs of the Owen Glen Building at the University of Auckland.

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

Environment


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.

Education


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 Education Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

3.1 We believe that the current decile system is ineffective in solving the issues of inequity in the New Zealand education system. We recommend that an alternative scheme be introduced, similar to Targeted at Risk Funding (TARF) proposed by the current Minister of Education. We would expand the qualifying criteria to include all students​ ​from​ ​low​ ​socio-economic​ ​backgrounds.
3.2 We believe that New Zealand schools are not sufficiently educating students on the impact the internet and social media has on sex, sexuality and relationships. We recommend that schools implement age-appropriate programmes that educate students on their legal rights and​ ​responsibilities​ ​through​ ​Year​ ​1 -13.
3.3 We believe that low decile schools are not given adequate access to technology and online learning in this digital age. With the exponential rise of technology, it is pivotal that all students can access these mediums. We recommend the implementation of technology hubs to allow students from low socio-economic areas to have equitable​ ​access​ ​to​ ​education​ ​and​ ​technology.
3.4 Tertiary education is not the sole option for school leavers and we believe alternative pathways are not equally promoted in schools. As a result, many high school leavers are unaware of potential career opportunities. We propose that schools facilitate greater awareness and access to vocational pathways in order to increase students’ exposure to fields​ ​other​ ​than​ ​tertiary​ ​education.
3.5 We believe that the method of assessment in the New Zealand education system over-emphasises rote learning and memorisation of knowledge. We propose the system can be improved by encouraging the practical application of knowledge through developing holistic learning​ ​and​ ​assessments.
3.6 We believe that ​Māori culture should be better integrated into the primary, intermediate and high​ ​school​ ​curricula.​ ​We​ ​recommend​ ​this​ ​can​ ​be​ ​achieved​ ​through:

  1. compulsory Te Reo Maori language education ​in​ ​primary​ ​and intermediate schools; and
  2. a compulsory curriculum on New Zealand’s indigenous history (covering ​Māori culture, heritage and historical events) in intermediate and Year 9-10 (also available in Year 11-13, but not compulsory).
3.7 We believe that mental health and the effects of stress on students are not being effectively addressed in New Zealand schools. We propose implementing compulsory mental health and mindfulness programs into the school curricula. This helps students become more proactive​ ​in​ ​preventing​ ​stress​ ​and​ ​addressing​ ​mental​ ​health​ ​issues.
A group of school students pose on the stairs of the Owen G Glen Building. The group’s facilitators sit in front and one of them holds a sign with a book design on it.

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

Economic Development


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 Economic Development Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

2.1 We believe that the tikanga principle of manaakitanga, caring for others, should underlie all economic policy decisions. This principle should not be exclusive and should be used to promote equity in New Zealand’s economy. We work best when we work together and help everybody out regardless of their economic background. It is imperative that we are conscious that everyone has a role to play in making New Zealand a cohesive economic unit.
2.2 We believe income tax brackets and rates should change to reflect changing economic circumstances, to be equitable and to address income inequality. The cost of living has increased while tax rates have stayed the same, so families, particularly of low and middle income, face diminished purchasing power. We recommend that the Government introduce a new bracket, applicable to individuals earning incomes over $100,000, at a rate of 37%. Tax rates for income earned between $48,001-70,000 should be reduced from 30 to 25% and income earned between $70,001-100,000 be reduced from 33 to 30%.
2.3 We believe that New Zealand should recognise that Small Medium Enterprises comprise a significant proportion of New Zealand’s economy. New Zealand’s business landscape has too many regulations around sustaining and developing small businesses, constraining and limiting their potential growth. We recommend that the Government reduces red tape, to foster a friendlier environment for business, in order to make it easier for them to be innovative and dynamic.
2.4 We believe that New Zealand should distance itself from anti-trade sentiment. New Zealand depends on trade, and having less trade relationships would harm our economy. We recommend that the Government support trade, and continue to pursue new and develop pre-existing bilateral and multilateral trade agreements to sustain and nurture export-led growth.
2.5 Legislative restraints are limiting property development in New Zealand. This means that young families are struggling to buy their first home and construction businesses are having difficulty expanding their enterprises. Ultimately, these difficulties are an anchor weighing New Zealand down. We recommend that the Government ease preexisting rules and regulations around property, such as the Resource Management Act, while also introducing subsidies and incentives for property development.
2.6 We believe that the current GST rate on certain essential products is too high. GST is a regressive tax, so the burden unfairly falls on lower income families, which makes it harder for them to obtain goods and services that they require to live healthy lives. We recommend that the Government significantly lower or eliminate the GST rate on essential goods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as sanitary products such as tampons and toilet paper.
2.7 We believe that the Reserve Bank of New Zealand’s policy target agreement is too broad and has too high an upper band. With too much inflation, it puts upwards pressure on the cost of living and potentially harms business and consumer confidence. We recommend that the Government changes the policy target agreement to be between 1-2%, as opposed to 1-3%, to reduce economic uncertainty and to promote a more prosperous economic environment for New Zealand.
A group of students are standing in front of a Marae. One of the student’s is holding a sign . The sign reads “Economic Development” and features a stylised building design.

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

Culture & Heritage


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 Culture & Heritage Focus Group, and approved by the participants at the Conference.

1.1 We endorse the Te Reo Tuatahi (TRT) program within schools and recommend the implementation of TRT within New Zealand communities. Te Reo and Tikanga Māori are an integral part of national heritage and identity. Without the fostering of these within a community environment, New Zealand risks the further decline of participation and understanding. By publicly funding TRT community implementation, we can provide necessary resources for the adaption of TRT, thus giving kaiāwhina reo (Māori language assistants) the ability to teach in community centres.
1.2 We believe the prevalence of tokenistic (sensationalist/inauthentic) representations of Māori and Pasifika culture in the tourism sector should be addressed to allow for more authentic representation. We urge for there to be further emphasis on education about genuine Māori and Pasifika cultures through tikanga, as opposed to simply using these cultures to attract tourists. Authentic representations of culture respect the values behind Māori and Pasifika stories and objects, rather than focusing on materialistic gain.
1.3 The GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives, Museums) sector are guardians of taonga (treasures). We recognise the contribution these taonga make towards shaping New Zealand culture and their potential to be lost, stolen, broken and deteriorate. To preserve this knowledge for future generations, we encourage public and private institutions to allocate more funding towards digitising these taonga to both increase accessibility and ensure these stories are not forgotten.
1.4 Mōhiotanga is the sharing of new information that helps us learn where we come from and where we are going. We recognise that there is an uneven distribution of attention given to certain historical events (like the World Wars). We, as a nation, should place more emphasis on lesser-known events because these are part of our histories and identities. In particular, the New Zealand Wars (1845-1872) should be emphasised through:

  1. Education in schools and communities,
  2. GLAM centres; and
  3. National media outlets.

We recommend the use of exhibitions in this pursuit. Exhibitions can emphasise different iwi histories and make education and mohiotanga more accessible.

1.5 The world is becoming more connected through globalisation. As a consequence, some countries are adopting increasingly nationalistic views. We encourage kotahitanga (inclusiveness) in New Zealand and recognise the synergy of New Zealand heritage and its diversity as the foundation of modern New Zealand culture. We urge reciprocal empathy by:

  1. Emphasising the significance of New Zealand heritage (eg. tikanga Māori and ANZAC), to old and new New Zealanders; and
  2. Respecting the diverse values brought into New Zealand by migrants and discouraging nationalistic immigration policies.

In this way, New Zealand can uphold the spirit of the Treaty of Waitangi by welcoming everyone to this land.

1.6 We recognise New Zealand’s diverse cultures and believe that there can be a lack of connection between minority groups and their cultural identity. This can harm social relationships, the sharing of culture with others and diminish the acknowledgement of whakapapa. We urge for there to be safe spaces available for minority students, but not limited to minority students, to further express and share their culture within their school and wider community, in order to encourage whanaungatanga.
1.7 New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) is one of our official languages, yet, it is rarely acknowledged in general society. This excludes a group of people from being able to express their ideas to a larger audience. In the interest of moving towards a more inclusive society that caters to all, we recommend that NZSL and Te Reo Turi be made more accessible to a wider New Zealand. We advise that this should be implemented through school clubs and government funded lessons in community centres and could be further normalised by the application of a translation mechanism for NZSL alongside media such as national news programmes.
A group of students are standing in front of a Marae. One of the student’s is holding a sign and sitting on the shoulders of another student. The sign reads “Culture and Heritage” and features a koru design.

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