'You're a smart girl, why don't you get out?'

From Nine To Noon, 11:26 am on 29 March 2017

A Northland teenager is working to create hope and future for young people in her part of the country.

Nina Griffiths is from Kaitaia, where she is working as waitress and is looking for a full-time job after finishing high school last year.

She's also a community leader and has been the chair of the Far North youth council, and last year she won a $10,000 AMP scholarship to help establish a youth-run community centre.

She told Kathryn Ryan young people in the Far North are in trouble with little to do, and little hope, and she wants to change that.

Griffiths says there are plenty of things to love about her part of the country and negative stories in the media, including coverage of two incidents in Kaikohe in recent weeks, only tell part of the story.

“It is quite frustrating because I suppose the perception of the rest of New Zealand of what happens up here is quite negative… it’s sort of a one-sided story.”

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Photo: supplied

Growing up in the Far North, young people aren’t given much hope for staying in the area and getting jobs, she says.

“It’s all about getting out… when I don’t think we realise there’s a lot to stay for.”

She says the environment and the people that the far north offer aren’t appreciated as much as they should be.

Griffiths believes there are three major issues facing youth in the area.

“Young people up here have nowhere to go, nothing to do.

“If you’re walking around town and you’re a bit bored, where do you go if you just want to hang out with your mates in a safe place?”

Secondly, she says there’s no way for young people to express themselves, which can be a major issue for mental health.

“A lot of young people have amazing talents, you wouldn’t believe the array of talents we have up here in Northland.

“Creative expression through those ways of art, music, dance, media, is a really awesome way to combat how you’re feeling if you are feeling down, if you’re feeling depressed.”

Lastly, she believes there’s limited pathways for young people wanting a future in the area.

She says Northtec is awesome, but courses are limited and generally if you want a good education you have to leave the region.

A youth or community centre would go a long way in addressing some of the issues, she says.

“We always wanted somewhere to go. On every survey that comes from Wellington… that goes through the schools, saying ‘what would you like? What would make your town better?’ we say things like youth space, youth space, youth space.”

Her dream is to have a centre made up of lots of different spaces for activities.

“For example a music studio, a dance studio, an area for just hang outs with bean bags and all that sort of stuff.”

Griffiths wants to create a mentoring programme through the centre where young people could connect with those in the industries they want to be in.

“Hopefully this youth space will be a place where you can see future pathways.”

A number of groups are now working together to make the centre a reality, with plans to apply for the Vodafone World of Difference scholarship in June, she says.