Ōtātara School pupils make their voices heard during Sandy Point Domain consultation

The public consultation process is a way for everybody in a community to share their thoughts, and the pupils at Ōtātara School are no exception.

Invercargill City Councillors agreed during a Community Wellbeing Committee in September to release the Sandy Point Domain Masterplan. Meanwhile, engagement on the review of Council’s Sandy Point Domain Management Plan opened in October.

The consultation period will give the community a chance to share their thoughts on both, and will run until January 31, 2024.

As part of this process, Council connected with Ōtātara School to encourage tamariki living nearby to have their say. This included a meeting between pupils, Councillor and Community Wellbeing Committee chairperson Darren Ludlow, and staff from Council’s Parks and Strategy, Policy and Engagement teams.

Councillor Ludlow said he had thoroughly enjoyed hearing the ideas the pupils had.

“We don’t often get young people sharing their views, so to see how enthusiastic they were was really encouraging. I think we don’t always give young people enough credit when it comes to understanding what is happening in their communities, or in the wider world around them. But the reality is, the decisions we make in local government have a real impact on their lives – not just today, but in the future as well,” he said.

“It’s vital that we listen to a range of perspectives during the community engagement process, and I really commend both the pupils and the teachers at Ōtātara School for getting involved. The thoughts they shared were really articulate and well-considered, and they’d clearly put a huge effort into their work. It was great to see the kids making their voices count, and engaging with local government at such a young age.”

Council Manager Parks and Recreation Caroline Rain said the Sandy Point Domain Masterplan sets out a strategic vision for the domain within the next 10, 25, and 50 years. Meanwhile, the Sandy Point Domain Management Plan outlines specific steps Council proposes to take in regards to the management and use of the area during the next decade.

“Both the Sandy Point Domain Management Plan, and the Sandy Point Domain Masterplan, are key pieces in the puzzle to ensure this area continues to be a valued part of our community,” she said.

“It has been fantastic to see the tamariki of Ōtātara School get involved in this process, take ownership, and ensure their views are among those shared by the community.”

Ōtātara School teacher Carla Werder said the school Ariki and Leaders had worked in every class, gathering insights and feedback from pupils aged between 5 years old to 11 years old, on their collective submission.

“We value student agency, and students having a voice in both their learning and their community – and taking an active part in it, too. They are our future, and having the opportunity to hear their views and be advocates for improvement in our community is important to us,” Werder said. “Their ideas are valuable, and need to be heard and shared.”

The pupils had enjoyed learning more about the Sandy Point area, and ‘dreamcasting’ when it came to its potential for the future, she said.

“It has allowed our akonga to feel heard, and a part of the bigger picture of the future of Ōtātara.”

Pupils hoped to speak to their formal submission in front of Councillors later in the consultation process, she said.

Eleven-year-old Sophie Harvey said she wanted the Sandy Point Domain to be a healthy, pleasant place for people to walk their dogs.

She and her family often walked their family pet there, but she had noticed issues with both rubbish and litter, as well as plants that could be dangerous for animals, she said.

“It makes me a wee bit upset, angry, and sad,” she said. “Looking at it [Sandy Point Domain] you can see it’s very pretty, and you can get a really good feeling there. People want to take their dogs there, but it needs to be made better.”

Meanwhile, Harper McDowall and Max McKenzie (both eight) were keen to see more development of the mountain bike trail network. Both used the existing network at Sandy Point Domain, and took part in local competitions, as did their families.

“Some of the tracks are really boring,” Max said. “I would like some super cool tracks with big jumps – more fun ones.”

Harper said she wanted to see more variety in the tracks, to suit different skill levels.

“I want some super-duper ones that are really fun, and my dad could have some really hard ones,” she said.

To have your say on the Sandy Point Domain, click here.