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Bringing young voices to the table

Young people need to make sure their voices are heard at policy level, says Kiri Allan's Youth MP for the East Coast.

Gisborne Girls' High School Year 13 student Sumita Singh has been appointed to the role and will be part of the 10th Youth Parliament on July 19 and 20 next year.

Sumita, 18, was the co-chair of Tairāwhiti Youth Council in 2020 and is a co-leader of Tairawhiti Environment Youth and Gisborne Schools Strike for Climate.

Her focus for the Youth Parliament will be the environment and young people being involved in policy level decision-making.

“In the long run there are a lot of us who will be impacted by the rules which are being set out now. We need to be making sure our voices are heard more actively at policy level.”

Sumita said she was excited to be representing East Coast MP and Cabinet Minister Allan.

“I feel like she and I are quite similar in our passions and the way we talk to people. We are both people-orientated.

“Getting to know her morals and the way she stands up for the Labour Party resonated with me. My upbringing and cultural background, having spent all of my life in this region, I have seen what she has done.

“This drove me to apply to be Kiri's Youth MP. It's an exciting opportunity to represent her, along with Tairāwhiti.

“I filmed a video about me, what I am most passionate about, ways I could find solutions for issues yet to be addressed and how I reach out to people.”

Sumita was helped by her form class teacher Annie Egan and a couple of friends.

Ms Singh said her immediate concerns were the climate legislation and youth input when it came to decision-making about climate policies.

“We are surrounded by beaches on one side and land on the other, so it makes us quite a vulnerable region specifically because of rising water levels.

“I feel like young people's voices aren't being heard. My connections through school and the youth council will allow me to go out, talk to people, and bring in the key points we want to discuss.

Other issues young people raised with her were the housing crisis and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Singh said she wanted young people to get resource investments to improve mental wellbeing and motivate them in these uncertain times.

“Support for youth is rising on the East Coast. I have seen a few spaces which have been established here.

Among these was the Treble Court-based Taiki e! collaborative space for social and environmental action.

“I know quite a few people who have stepped in there and have been doing business since lockdown.

“They received a lot of help not only from people who work there, but also from mentors throughout the East Coast.

“We have some foundations here. It's just about strengthening them and making sure people are aware so they can utilise them the most.

“I have touched on these issues with Kiri briefly when I have had a moment with her.

“I am looking forward to addressing them in the Youth Parliament next year.”

Ms Singh's mother Ravinder Pal Saini said she never doubted her daughter's strength.

“Her father and I are very proud of Sumita. We wish her the best for next year”.

Ms Allan was “absolutely thrilled” to have Sumita on board.

“As anyone in Gisborne knows, she's a young woman going places. She's smart, she's hard-working and is always putting her hand up to volunteer.

“She cares about the environment, and about her community — definitely one to watch and definitely a leader among her peers.”

HIGHER LEVEL: Youth MP for Kiri Allan, Sumita SIngh, 18. Picture by Liam Clayton