In 2019, legislation was passed which put the people back into council business. Until then, we’d become familiar with hearing council’s role was pipes, roads and rubbish. Local government must now “promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities”. That might mean more funding for arts, or community organisations. It might mean making sure any decisions made consider the four well-beings. Regardless, I wanted to highlight an issue that is important for youth and how council has a role to play in addressing it.
If you ask young people what is important to them, climate and mental health will be at the top of the list. So, what role does our city council play in addressing mental health? It’s here that we consider the second of the two options outlined above, no-one is suggesting council fund mental health initiatives, but they can make sure that all decisions made consider what we know to be good for mental health. That means make sure that we protect and restore green spaces and make getting around the city safer and easier. Nature and physical activity are good for mental health. Councils can support community wellbeing by funding and promoting community work, events and organisations. Connectivity, a sense of belonging and identity are good for mental health. Finally, affordable housing – can be enabled by council by coming up with innovative solutions like the community land trust, or making sure developers offer “affordable” options. Financial pressure impacts on mental health. Council has a role to play in promoting wellbeing, I hope that we use this election to make sure that candidates know that this is a priority for not just youth, but all of us.