A life changing experience

Date:  09 May 2018

“We were supposed to go to Taranaki to teach and inspire these YELFies … but in hindsight I think this massively backfired as we were taught many lessons and came back inspired by them!”, Jolyon Swinburn, climate policy analyst and chaperone at YELF.

A number of Ministry staff spent an action-packed week in Taranaki at the annual Youth Enviroleaders' Forum (YELF), a programme run by the Sir Peter Blake Trust in partnership with the Ministry for the Environment. Some 56 student delegates aged 15-18 from throughout New Zealand were selected for the programme based on their passion for the environment and leadership potential. Among them, for the first time, were delegates from te reo Māori immersion schools.

This year’s YELF theme was climate change. Taranaki, a region known for its dairy farming and fossil fuel industry, turned out to be a timely location in the wake of the Government’s announcement to end new oil and gas exploration. Chatting to locals and a wide range of experts demonstrated to students the complexity of climate change and the importance of considering the views of different stakeholders.

Our small but enthusiastic ministry chaperone team was proud to share our work and passion for the environment with the YELFies.

Most importantly, the mindset to instigate change is carried back to communities by these young people. All delegates created action plans for environmental projects ranging from pest control to zero waste schools, and are off to implement them back in their communities.

Many of the students were interested in the work we do, and expressed a real desire to contribute to it in various ways – such as providing their thoughts on policies, helping design educational resources to use in their schools, and boosting our social media presence. These passionate and highly engaged youth are a real asset to the work we do.