When our current Mayor, Vanessa Van Uden, was elected into this position she spoke of launching a new way of engaging the communities within the QLDC district in a way that had never been done before. With help from Otago Polytech and Dave Roberts, tonight saw the first of these community engagement forums. The focus was on economics, however the forum was also a great place to talk about the process that we are all about to go through together.

Since I first heard about this initiative I have been keen as mustard to get some of our young people along to participate in this and have their voice heard. Megan and Blake, from Wanaka’s Young Change Makers, were also keen as mustard to get involved. We had no idea how it was going to work or if would even be interesting.

Since we came straight from MAC we were among the first to arrive, it was a fantastic opportunity for us to get to see who was coming. I was able to point out and introduce some of the people I knew. Quite a few tables were set out with large pieces of paper and pens. It looked like a pretty RAD work space and when the seats were filling up I felt pretty hopeful that this process would work.

We started off as a groups, at our tables discussing and recording what we thought were the major drivers of economic change in our district. It raised some interesting point, was the thought we had a driver of change, or was it just a great feature of our town? As our time together drew to a close we were invited to rate our favourite ideas using coloured dots on ourĀ  paper. Only the scribe of the words was allowed to remain at their table, everyone else was asked to go and join another group, hopefully with people they didn’t know.

When we arrived at your new tables we then heard about and discussed the merits of the previous tables thoughts. This was a very engaging process and a really good way to allow us all to look at something from a totally different point of view. It also meant that Meg and Blake were soon off out on their own meeting people and having their voices heard! Once the thoughts had re-catagorised it was time for the scribe plus one other group member to report back upon to the whole group. This just echos the way that we do things in Enviroschools.

The next subject for discussion was the economic and environmental/social successes that existed within our town. The talk soon turned to how a success in one of these dimensions often resulted in a negative effect in the other. Very interesting to work out what really was a success on the holistic system. With a vote, a switch of people and more voting, summarised by more reporting back it was open mic time. Did we have anything to say to the group as a whole? Heck yeah, where’s Meg?

I felt like I was back at school trying to pass her a note to ask if she wanted to go speak. It’s a pretty tough thing to do as a young person to stand up in front of a group of people you don’t know and talk about something off the cuff. We managed to find a happy medium, she accompanied up to centre stage, I did much of the talking and her presence just confirmed that we are actually doing stuff to improve our towns future, and we’d like some more company.

As it all came to a close I was really keen for Blake and Megan to meet Vanessa. She had lots of questions for them and was really impressed that they came along to have their voice heard. She was also really keen to get some more youth involvement in the Queenstown forums, so we were given a final task for the day. To collect our thoughts about the event and why it was important for us to be there this evening, put them in an email so she can use this to motivate some young people from Queenstown.

This just seemed like the perfect opportunity to go visit Red Star, have a well deserved feed and do some formal reflection on the forum. The general consensus was that it was well worth our time going and we are already looking forward to next weeks forum focused upon events.