If you've ever seen the colossal squid at Te Papa Museum in Wellington, you'll know it's not something you forget in a hurry, says Mount Maunganui College student Sam Taylor.
Museums have an important impact on young people and society as a whole and Tauranga needs one of its own, he says.
“Everyone who's been to Te Papa remembers the giant squid and I have no doubt it has spawned a wave of marine biologists and scientists. From a youth perspective, the great thing about museums is that they don't just teach us about our past, they inspire us for the future.”
Sam, 16, says while Tauranga has The Elms historic mission house and a few placards around town featuring local history, there is nothing else that really tells of Tauranga's historic past.
“It's interesting that Tauranga is suffering from decreasing numbers of people returning here after going away to university education. I really think the lack of cultural institutions contributes to that. There's no cultural incentive to come back. A museum would tick some of those boxes. There are economic, social, educational and cultural benefits to having a museum in Tauranga.”
Sam is a member of Taonga Tauranga, a museum advocacy group in the city, and together with fellow student Louis Donovan has set up a Facebook page – Tauranga - Our City, Our Culture – aimed at engaging people in discussion about the museum.
“We hope to get some ‘yes' voters for the referendum. Even though, as young people, we can't vote, we hope we can influence people to vote yes. We'd also like to encourage young people to make long-term plan submissions and use social media to motivate young people on issues that are important to us.”
Taonga Tauranga recently ran an essay competition to raise youth interest in the museum.
Convenor of Taonga Tauranga, Peter McKinlay, says Tauranga City Council has opted to seek public opinion on the proposed museum by way of a referendum of voters, but there are other views not being taken into consideration.
“Young people have a voice they believe should be heard too,” he says.
“It would require a change in the way the council thinks about the role of youth and how it ought to go about including young people in this kind of decision-making. It requires the council to move beyond talking to the people that pay, to all of those who have an interest in the future of this city and the role a museum has to play in that.”
City Transformation Committee chairman Larry Baldock says the council doesn't have a deliberate strategy to consult with young people about the museum at this stage, but when it comes to the design of any museum and its content it will do so.
“At the moment the battle rages over the affordability and who is going to pay for it, which falls upon ratepayers.
“Getting the museum built and open is a long-term strategy and there is still plenty of time for young people to engage.”
Larry says the referendum, with an expected turn-out of around 30 per cent, will only make up part of the feedback on the proposed museum and the council would love to see young people make both written and oral submissions through the long-term plan consultation process.