Youth Councils - Local Government

Do you want to make something better in your community and you don’t know where to start? Youth councils are a great way for young people to affect change in their communities. If you want to have input into decisions about issues in your community, you can participate in youth councils to make your voice heard. If you are looking to create a community that encourages youth to become involved or you are a young person looking for an opportunity to make a difference, read on to find out more.

What are Youth Councils?

Youth councillor 18 years

“When the regional council asked us about the bus service, we went out and surveyed young people in schools to see what they thought. They had lots of ideas and experiences we never had, and it made our feedback to the council stronger” - Youth councillor, aged 18 years.

Now, more than ever community leaders are realising the positive connection between involving young people in community activities and the increase in overall community vitality and engagement. Young people bring new energy and ideas to standard issues and concerns, often with a unique perspective as to how best to tackle challenges and opportunities.

A youth council is a formal group or board of young people that provides representation or a voice for youth in the community. Councils facilitate the involvement of young people in local governance and decision-making.

Youth councils can consist of 10 to 12 participants or more in larger communities. Keep in mind that it is always a good idea to work towards recruiting extra members as people are busy and may not always be able to make each meeting. The recruitment of dedicated youth members is the most critical factor to the success of a youth council.

Participation on a youth council is less likely to be successful if it is all work and no play. Do not underestimate the importance of fun. Adding in fun elements like team-building games and ice-breaking activities for new members also encourages members to establish a collaborative environment where everyone is free to comment and voice their concerns. They will feel more engaged and appreciated.

Youth councils make decisions and set directions for promoting the social, cultural, environmental and economic well-being of the community.

The participation of young people includes:

  • making submissions to your council on matters of interest or concern to young people
  • making a submission to government on an issue affecting youth in your community
  • creating a petition to the council or government
  • speaking at a youth council meeting
  • speaking at a council meeting.

If you want to make a submission and need some tips check out the Youth Voices Toolkit. This has lots of useful information and practical tips to get your views and ideas across.

How can you get involved?

Young people group

Communities are realising that young people are one of their most valuable assets. There are groups of young people getting together all over the country as part of independent and local youth councils. If you are keen to get involved in making your city, town or area better for young people, then get in touch with your local council.

If you have a youth council in your community, you could find out:

  • when their next open meeting is and attend it
  • if there are any consultations with young people in your community and help out
  • when youth council elections are held become a Youth Councillor
  • if you are registered to vote and if you are old enough consider becoming a City Councillor.

If you don't have a youth council in your community, you could:

  • find out if the council is thinking about creating one and offer to help out
  • talk to other young people in your community about the idea of having a youth council
  • write a letter or speak to someone on the council about setting up a youth council.

Check the youth councils links below for more information about how you can have your say.

Youth Councils Support

Youth councillor 17 years

“Consultation is giving young people a voice within the community so that we all have a say in what goes on creating something that is suitable to everyone because everyone deserves an opinion to be listened to no matter what their age is”. Young person on a student council, aged 17 years.

Local government is made up of territorial local authorities (district and city councils) and regional councils. The Ministry of Youth Development - Te Manatū Whakahiato Taiohi supports youth councils across the country by providing resources and toolkits on project planning, decision-making, leadership, and how to run a group. For more information go to Young people and funding panels.

Central Otago District Council

Central Otago group

© Central Otago District Council

Central Otago District Council

Central Otago’s District Council benefitted from a Youth Development Partnership grant to assist the expansion of youth services in Alexandra, Clyde and Omakau. In partnership with the Alexandra Youth Trust Central Otago’s funding is being used to develop and deliver youth leadership training including Maori Youth leadership, Youth Forum Development and Training for Young People and to ensure young people are engaged in their communities as well as helping them succeed in whatever they set out to accomplish.

The council consider young people as key stakeholders in the big decisions affecting their community especially our youth community.

Because of the community’s willingness to encourage the youth perspective, a lot of value has been added across the district. Our youth are being empowered to make their own decisions and take on leadership not only of their own lives but in giving back to others in their community also.

The Alexandra Youth Forum is a vibrant group of young people from year 11 - 13 that are an active voice for the youth in the Alexandra and District area. These young people have put on a number of different events already this year that promote drug, alcohol and smoke free fun for the youth in Alexandra. These events have included a quiz night which involved both parents and students and saw 35 members of the community both young and old attend.

If you want to share your Youth Council story, contact us at mydinfo[at]