Youth Affairs Policy

Young people are our future. Their abilities, creativity, and contribution to our society both now and in the future should be recognised and valued.

It is today’s young people who will be charged with overcoming many of the challenges created by previous generations – economic, social, and environmental. We need to equip and support our young people to do this.

We recognize and support the rights of young people – including the right to be safe from violence, to be included in decision-making, and to be receive equal pay for work of equal value.

Rangatahi Maori in particular deserve to have their rights as indigenous youth respected, and their access to their reo, tikanga and culture upheld and supported.

Key Principles

  • Young people’s intelligence, abilities and talents must be acknowledged and respected. They should be safe from violence, fully supported by their family and be an integral and valued part of our society.
  • Young people deserve a secure base from which they can express their creativity and discover life as an adventure. They must be encouraged and supported to take on positions of responsibility and decision-making.
  • Young people should receive equal pay for work of equal value and discrimination against young people must be dismantled.
  • Rangatahi should be able to readily access their reo and tikanga; and their indigenous rights should be respected and recognized.

Specific Policy Points

Conflict Resolution Promotion

  • Work with schools and communities to eliminate prejudice, bullying, intimidation and violence.
  • Promote the teaching of conflict resolution skills to encourage young people to avoid violence and to think in terms of justice and reconciliation.

Work and Income Support

  • Reintroduce a benefit for unsupported unemployed and sick young people aged 16 and 17, extend the adult minimum wage to 16 and 17 year olds and introduce a student emergency benefit over the summer holidays.
  • Provide greater opportunities for student work experience.
  • Enable NZ to sign International Labour Organisation Convention 138 by deciding the most appropriate age to start working, and what is safe work for young people.


  • Support the introduction of an optional "gap year" to aid young people in their transition between school and further education and employment.
  • Support supervised extra-curricular activities as part of the standard education for young people and encourage participation by young people in the arts and crafts.
  • Incorporate environmental education into the core curriculum at all levels and encourage teaching of civics education in order to better equip young people for life.
  • Work towards te reo and tikanga Maori being available to all young people.
  • Increase the number of teen parent support programmes.
  • Support human rights education as a core part of the curriculum and protect the interests and identity of gay, lesbian and other queer students in schools and tertiary institutions.
  • Assist schools to develop and review strategies to ensure schools are safe for young people in New Zealand as international students, and that adequate English for Speakers of Other Languages services are provided.
  • Work to ensure that no student misses out on education through exclusions, suspensions or prolonged or persistent absenteeism.
  • Introduce a universal student allowance, at the level of the unemployment benefit, for full-time students, including 16 and 17 year olds in tertiary education.
  • Immediately cap student fees at $1,500 per annum; progressively phase out the student fee system; and, for people who are contributing in paid or unpaid work in New Zealand, each year write off the student debt that it took them one year’s worth of study to accrue.
  • Make study costs tax-deductible for part-time students who do not qualify for an allowance.

Civic Participation

  • Amend the Local Government Act to ensure young people are represented or have a voice on local body committees/community boards.
  • Develop and promote new models of participation promoting civic engagement.

Health and Wellbeing Promotion

  • Promote health initiatives specifically for young people and work towards free healthcare for all young people including primary health care and dental care. Make young people’s mental health services an urgent priority.
  • Ensure the inclusion of comprehensive health, sex and drug education at intermediate and secondary levels and improve access to family planning and sexual health services to young people, in particular young women.
  • Ensure the gender-appropriate teaching of self-esteem, self-defence and sexual health to 10 to 14 year olds.
  • Require the Education Review Office to audit implementation of the health education curriculum.
  • Review the explosive growth in the prescription of some drugs to young people.
  • Research and advocate for policies to reduce the underlying economic, environmental and social issues causes of ill health in young people.
  • Identify and promote culturally appropriate programmes to address the public health needs of young Maori, Pasifika and other cultures’ children.
  • Support a partnership with schools and "rainbow" (gay, lesbian etc) youth organisations to reduce the unacceptably high level of suicide and drug abuse.

Reduce alcohol and drug harm

  • Ban broadcast alcohol advertising and require compulsory health warnings on all alcohol products.
  • Introduce a legal age limit of 18 years for personal cannabis use (to be consistent with alcohol).
  • Establish a Ministerial Advisory Group on Drug Education, ensure that a comprehensive and effective drug education programme is available to schools and communities, and treat parental substance abuse as primarily a health issue.
  • Provide rehabilitation programmes specifically designed for young people who are already addicted or dependent on alcohol and other drugs.

Youth Justice

  • Raise the age of criminal responsibility in line with UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and include 17 year olds in the Children, Young Persons and their Families Act.
  • Ensure young people under 18 deprived of their liberty are not held in police cells or mixed with adults outside of their family.
  • Support the establishment of smaller scale, dispersed Youth Rehabilitation Centres. Implement the Government’s 2002 Youth Development Strategy through all youth justice facilities and youth prison units.
  • Ensure increased resources for Family Group Conferences and training for FGC convenors.
  • Ensure Maori tikanga and reo programmes are included in prisons and youth justice centres, enable iwi and hapu collaboration in prison management, and support models of Maori justice systems for young offenders.

Driver responsibility

  • Review the system for obtaining a drivers licence to ensure there has been adequate supervision, experience and defensive driving skills education before obtaining a full drivers license.
  • Support a review of the use of high-powered motor vehicles by young people.


  • Ensure refugee and asylum seeker young people enjoy equal rights with their New Zealand counterparts, and also have access to well-resourced appropriate mental health and well-being systems.
  • Appoint guardians for refugee and asylum seeker young people separated from their families, to ensure that their rights and well-being are protected.

Read the full policy here