Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air
Youth-led innovators, entrepreneurs and creators met in Wellington for the Festival of The Future summit recently.
The two-day event, brought current and future leaders together in one room to share what they want their future to look like.
On hand to welcome the 1400 guests to her city was mayor, Tory Whanau.
“I became mayor because I really want to set the city up for the future generation climate resilience, affordable housing, thriving community and festival for the future what that requires are young leaders and festival for the future is helping develop those leaders,” she says.
Wellington city’s first wahine Māori mayor hopes this platform will elevate others to take on leadership roles, especially in local government.
“Politics is where it happens it’s where we make legislation it’s where we make those important decisions and what we need are younger people to be the decision-makers so that we are setting up the future for them,” she added.
Tagged as Aotearoa’s biggest leadership and innovation summit, it was established back in 2011 providing opportunities for young Kiwis to develop skills and engage in critical conversations.
It was an opportunity young Tuvaluan, Gemma Vailahi didn’t want to miss out on.
“I feel like it’s a way for us to grow and also just not stay to ourselves cos knowing us like we’d rather stay with our own people but just like networking with other people just another opportunity for us to just like I don’t know like be better,” Gemma says.
Another participant, Justin Ugone-Higano Lino resonated with the topics at the summit, “I think it’s more so looking forward per se.”
“I know that there is a climate change one especially being from Tokelau. You know climate change is making massive impacts on our island and people.”
Highlighting digital equity and better access to technology is Nu’uali’i Eteroa Lafaele’s mission.
“There are many things like lack of resources, laptops, connectivity, support, trust and education and with that it actually shows the pipeline of underrepresentation of our Pasifika people in tech.
“We really want to influence – one, providing that resource but we know that giving our people a laptop isn’t enough so what we do at Fibre fale is we give you a device but we pack you to a pathway to tech.
With the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) the software engineer wants Pasifika to lead in this space.
“Let’s say there’s AI and it speaks Samoan or Tongan or Tokelau to us. It’s amazing cos it’s like yes, we have something that speaks like us but then who owns that knowledge? Who is the holder of that information and unfortunately with this day and time it’s not our Pasifika people, it’s people that are foreign to who we are, what our customs are and how they respect us as people,” Lafele says.
A team from the Cook Islands National Youth Council also attended the summit, they were keen to raise awareness about climate issues in the region.
Council member Jean-Maree Nootai says, it’s about amplifying the voice of people from the Pacific Islands.
“Our ocean is hurting at the moment we really need pacific voices to be heard in this space because we are the ones that are affected,” she says.
“You know we contribute very little to hurting our moana but we are the ones that feel the effects first. For example, look at Tuvalu, like our brothers and sisters over there they are really being affected and you know having that mamae (hurt).”
Andrea Fua co-founded Vaka which is an education company empowering young people through technology.
Our whole purpose and kaupapa is to ignite the next wave of Steam (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) entrepreneurs,” she says.
“We want to help our young people especially Māori & Pacific young people use steam to come up with businesses and use that to propel their futures forward.”
One of their projects already making a mark involves 3D technology. It’s helping to provide more opportunities for future entrepreneurs.
“There is a misconception that it’s too hard for our people to get involved and so we write ourselves off,” she says.
“That’s one of the things we are trying to tackle; is actually bringing what we do, bringing 3D printing to our young people, getting them to give it a go, proving to themselves that it is something that is possible.”