Whangarei Youth Space

05 May 2014

The Whangarei Youth Space was opened on 2 May and repersents years of hard work from Northland Youth. This is the story about how the youth space came to be written by Brad Olsen, a member of the Ministry of Youth Development's Youth Advisory Panel.


The Youth Space has been over 6 years in the making, but it really took form in January 2012, when a Youth Steering Group was formed from a range of Whangarei youth who were keep to make a positive difference to their city.

Bernie Hetaraka, Youth Development and Health Coordinator at Whangarei Youth Space, remarks: “Young people wanted a space… [It’s been all about] meaningful participation with young people… [we] took it to the next level by meaningful youth ideas.”

The Youth Steering Group also got a wider range of ideas from youth by holding a meeting of the ‘Youth Collective’. Many groups were invited, but the main attendees were the Ngati Hine Health Trust RAID Movement, and the Whangarei District Council Youth Advisory Group. This Youth Collective actually drew up the design.


Perhaps the most important feature of the Whangarei Youth Space is not the actual Youth Space or the services it provides, but the unique way in which its governance structure operates.

It is, as far as is known, the first trust to have a 50/50 partnership with youth in its Trustee structure. This pioneer method details that 50% of trustees must be aged 18-24, and other 50% will be 24 and over.

Parallel to this, Whangarei Youth Space is also offering 5 Youth Intern positions, and is forming a Youth Steering Committee to brainstorm and implement ideas and activities at the Whangarei Youth Space. The Trust Deed also sets out that “ ‘Any vacancy in the number of Adult Trustees shall be filled by appointment made by the Appointments Panel … which is to include … and two youth representatives’ ”

Below is Brad Olsen with Mayor of Whargarei, Sheryl Mai

Brad Olsen with Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai

Youth in the project

Youth are the cornerstone of this project, and rightly so. It has meant that the direction and focus of resources has been towards the provision of a space built by and for youth, and has the capacity to let young people to have a safe space to have ownership over. It is testament to the youth of Whangarei that it has finally been completed.

There is an incredible amount of both community and youth buy in too. At the 5AM Powhiri to officially open the Whangarei Youth Space, over 130 people were in attendance. This was followed by two opens days for the public, and the entire vibe of the Whangarei Youth Space is buzzing with excitement.

Local Whangarei youth, Sara McKean, 17, comments “Whangarei needs a place where young people can come together and connect in a safe environment. The new youth space has everything we need and gives us an opportunity to become more involved in our community.”

One can only hope that other organisations around New Zealand sit up and take note of the way in which young people can make a difference in their communities, and incorporate youth to ensure that they become active citizens in New Zealand society.

Written by Brad Olsen

MYD Northern Youth Advisory Panel Member