Making a difference . . . Waitaki District Youth Council deputy chairwoman Mady Rawson and chairman Ethan Reille are looking forward to giving Waitaki youth a voice this year. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

Two secondary school pupils with a shared passion for environmental and social issues are heading this year’s Waitaki District Youth Council.

Waitaki Boys’ High School pupil Ethan Reille has stepped into the role of chairman and is supported by deputy chairwoman Mady Rawson, of Waitaki Girls’ High School.

The 16-year-olds were excited about the opportunity to take charge of the youth council.

Ethan, who is also the School Strike 4 Climate national media representative, said he was passionate about youth advocacy.

“I really want to make sure the youth’s voices are heard in our district, especially when there isn’t a big youth majority in council at the moment,” Ethan said.

“I have a huge passion for issues like the environment, climate change …

“I think it was sort of my goal in council this year, and I was looking at ways where I could use a platform to be able to share and express my anger that our voices weren’t being heard.”

He believed more young people were realising the power of their voices, and that they were the caretakers of their land.

There was one quote which always came to his mind when striving for change: “If not now, then when? And if not us, then who?”.

He also hoped to use his new role to shine a light on the effects alcohol and drugs were having on Waitaki’s youth, after seeing the effects on people at school.

“There have been a lot of scenarios where … school students have been impacted at home where it’s cost them their life,” he said.

” I guess that was a bit of a reality shocker for me, and made me realise that something needs to be done about it and nothing is being done about it.

“I wanted to be able to use my voice, and the time and the capacity that I still have now, to be able to make a difference.”

It was Mady’s first year with the youth council, but the Waitaki Girls’ High School pupil had been involved in environment club, health committee and young farmers groups.

She hoped by joining the youth council she could help make young people’s voices heard regarding water regulations, and the ecological matters in the district.

“I’m hoping that I can push the ideas that are given by adults and show that it’s communicated through the young, and our opinions and views on it,” Mady said.

The youth council would focus on hosting its talent quest again this year, and look at ways to support making the district smokefree by 2025.

Further ideas would come to fruition once the group had its first strategy meeting.