YELF 2016 - learning to negotiate

Date:  28 April 2016

Three Ministry policymakers ran a marine-themed debate in Nelson as part of the 2016 Youth EnviroLeaders' Forum.

The annual week-long event aims to address topical environmental issues facing New Zealand and is designed to inspire and build the capability of the 15 to 18 year olds who are selected for the programme.

This year’s themes were pest control, biodiversity and ocean health. 

Ministry for the Environment co-funds Sir Peter Blake Trust to deliver the programme.

Ministry Chief Executive Vicky Robertson spoke at the official opening and Environment Minister Hon Nick Smith closed the programme. 

Communication channels advisor Rebekah Burgess was there. 

The marine debate led by Ministry staff Torrey McDonnell, Jolyon Swinburn and James Ayling was heady stuff for delegates selected for the forum. Many are so enthusiastic, so wildly passionate, about whichever environmental topic inspires them – they want, literally, to change the world. And it’s that passion and drive that is blanketing this room. 
“Today we talked about issues in marine areas and people’s values,” Torrey says. “Well now we’re discussing similar issues, except now they’re real. We will divide you in to interest groups, and we will consider a proposal and I want to know how your values will be affected.” 
Interest areas for students to consider for the scenario include: oil and gas, seabed mining, commercial fishing, NGOs, recreational fishing, tourism and iwi. 
They’re discussing whether to allow several commercial proposals to go ahead in a fictitious New Zealand region called Marineland. They need to factor in several marine protected areas, as well as considering things like a small group of iwi-owned islands, an albatross colony and Maui dolphins, current oil and gas operations, a deep sea black stony coral (which crosses some mining applications) and already-established marine protected areas.
They’re considering applications for: mining for phosphate and iron sands, oil and gas permits, a marine reserve, and a proposal for a recreational fishing park. The proposals might be made up, but the issues are real. 
“It’s about who wants to give up what, and who is prepared to negotiate. It’s about how it affects their industry to try to find a solution that works for them,” Torrey says.
“We will judge the best debate – those ones who stick to their guns and kept hold of their core values.”
There’s an initial stand up and the groups go around the room saying whether they’re for or against the proposal then Torrey tells them it’s time to “broker on deals”.
Some ten minutes later: “We’re going to talk about what you negotiated and what you gave away. You need to tell us by going around the room, with no interjections. After that it’s all on.”
The talk continues. It gets more heated as the delegates get into character.  The delegates are banging the desks, they can’t adhere to the rules; their passion is taking over. They’re learning how hard it is to balance the interests of our country.
Our team is facilitating their tools for the future, they are learning how to compromise, how to work with others in order to get the best outcomes for all. It’s inspiring.
Summing up with Torrey’s words: “Environmental management is all about finding common ground,” he says at the end of the debate.
“Put your hands up if you thought that was hard?” Most put their hands up. “These are the sort of problems that we deal with every day. It’s complex. That’s what makes it so enjoyable. The only way you’re going to reach a solution is by collaboration and cooperation.” 
Well done team. 

Read more about the adventures of this year's delegates on the Sir Peter Blake Trust website