Wellington campusMonday 19 September 2016 1:38pm

Dr Ramona Tiatia
Dr Ramona Tiatia

A new study from the University of Otago, Wellington, with a unique angle and focus in Porirua city has found that better facilities and affordable activities for youth are urgently needed to achieve social sector change.

The BLITZ study, which was part of the wider Porirua Social Sector Trial, developed an app to survey approximately 100 children and youth, 100 whānau, and service providers to discover the youth's vision for the city.

The Porirua Social Sector Trial was built in partnership with Ngāti Toa, Porirua City Council, Housing NZ, Te Puni Kokiri, NZ Police, DHBs, and the Ministries of Justice, Education and Social Development. It was established four years ago to trial new approaches to social sector change through inter-agency collaboration, co-ordination and communication to targeted communities.

Lead BLITZ researcher Dr Ramona Tiatia says that Porirua has a strong community which takes pride in its city. Youth groups, churches, and schools often take the lead on coordinating services and activities, but do not have enough funding or resources. She says that better coordination, collaboration and increased stable funding for youth amenities are needed.

Collage for BLITZ study

“We surveyed youth about whether they saw themselves living, working and building careers in Porirua in the next decade and whether they and their whānau were being supported well enough by public and community services in Porirua,” says Dr Tiatia, from the University of Otago, Wellington's He Kainga Oranga/Healthy Housing Research Programme

The study showed that Porirua youth identified smoking, bullying/cyber-bullying and alcohol as the three biggest problems, whereas adults thought that boredom/not enough to do, lack of affordable activities, not enough art and cultural activities were the significant issues.

Porirua has a higher youth population than other New Zealand cities (26.2 per cent of Porirua's population is under 15, compared to 21.5 per cent for all of New Zealand, and the median age is 32.6 years compared to 35.9 years for all of New Zealand), according to Statistics NZ data.

The Porirua City Council has made it a priority to cater for its youth population, spending over 30 per cent of its rates on community and leisure, according to the NZ Sustainable Cities Drivers of Urban Change report, but the BLITZ study showed more could be done to understand what youth need and want, and that more needs to be provided.

“The study results are especially valuable because the app allowed the children and youth to do the hands-on research to reveal their vision for their city,” says Dr Tiatia.

The BLITZ study also showed that council libraries are important public spaces for youth to gather to study and network.

“Parents and carers agreed though that there are not enough affordable or interesting activities for youth, apart from the sports or church programmes that they run themselves,” says Dr Tiatia.

“Participants overwhelmingly wanted more amenities for youth, including creative arts and performance spaces, free and affordable entry fees for youth programmes, and employment. The children and youth made creative drawings of fun activities they wanted all around the city such as bike and boat rides, water fountains, horse treks and flying foxes,” says Dr Tiatia.

“With the council elections coming up, we encourage residents to ask candidates about what they will do for youth in Porirua, and whether they support increasing amenities, such as building dedicated youth hubs and youth spaces,” she says.

Other significant issues raised by the study were:

  • the high cost of public transport especially for youth who travel into Wellington City for school, training, employment, and entertainment
  • the lack of coordinated services such as health, social, and careers
  • pollution of Porirua Harbour

The full report will be released at the end of October. A radio interview about the study and other related resources can be accessed here.

For further information, contact:

Dr Ramona Tiatia
Department of Public Health
University of Otago,Wellington
Email: r.tiatia@otago.ac.nz

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