Is a Youth Parliament the "best use of half a million dollars"?

By Tema Hemi

Minister for Youth Peeni Henare has responded to the New Zealand Taxpayers Union spokesperson's claim that this week's Youth Parliament is an expensive waste of time that promotes taxpayer-funded "junketeering".  

Henare says he is angered at the way that the Tax Payers Union has hit out at the initiative. 

"The disappointment is at a boiling point at the [disrespect] shown toward our youth, our future leaders." 

The minister has support from the country's future leaders.

Anaru Palmer of Tauranga Boys College says, "I don't feel it's a waste of taxpayers money in the sense that a lot of the individuals that are here at Youth Parliament are essentially the future of our country."

Shaye Witehira of Manukura says, "Kapū te ruha ka hao te rangatahi."

"Without a doubt I and other members of parliament will be sending a strong message to the Tax Payers Union.  The youth participants that have attended this week are not what has been described in the report by the Tax Payers Union," says Henare.

So the big question is - what warranted the Tax Payers Union to issue such a bold statement? 

Executive Director and co-founder of the Tax Payers Union Jordan Williams says, "Our point is, there are higher needs for a half a million dollars.  For example, we've still got families living in cars in South Auckland.  We still have New Zealanders that are dying because the New Zealand government doesn't pay for drugs the Australian government pays for.  We are asking the question, is that the best use of half a million dollars?" 

The total cost to support Youth Parliament and all of its initiatives has not been confirmed.  Henare says its still a small price to pay to develop our nation's future leaders. 

"The real problem with Youth Parliament is it's actually the best and brightest head boys and head girls that are actually already engaged in politics. Where that money should be going is looking for the kids that otherwise have no involvement," says Williams. 

Henare disagrees, "I have experienced and seen these youth in action and I applaud them for the innovative thoughts they have offered.  I believe that within this group of young people is the future prime minister of tomorrow." 

He says that our future leaders need to have the same opportunities in terms of funding as those of the older generations, who have many government-funded initiatives.  

"I said from the beginning of this programme that the benefits will be huge and if we as a government are investing a lot into our older generations it is equally important to do so for our younger generations."

The six-month Youth Parliament 2019 programme provides an opportunity for young people to actively work and be heard on topics and issues they are passionate about.