Below is a list of frequently asked questions about the New Zealand Antarctic Youth Council.

What is the NZAYC?
The New Zealand Antarctic Youth Council is a group of young New Zealanders aged 18 to 30 who share an interest in the Antarctic region. The Council seeks to provide New Zealand youth with a platform for engagement with issues surrounding the Antarctic and Southern oceans.

What is the Council’s purpose?
The purpose of the NZAYC is to open and strengthen communication channels, providing opportunities for New Zealand youth to engage with the diverse issues affecting Antarctica. The Council’s initial focus will be to facilitate the flow of knowledge to New Zealand youth, in support of its future goals around empowering today’s youth to have an impact on public policy decisions.

These goals reflect the Council’s efforts to make the continent more accessible as a part of New Zealand’s national narrative and cultural heritage. Antarctica is a unique environment, so a unique approach to outreach – one that encompasses education, policy work and partnering with scientific organisations – is essential.

What areas does it focus on?
Awareness and Education
– bringing Antarctica to the attention of young New Zealanders. The Council is focused on developing ways to share the information and resources held within the Antarctica community. This is a necessary step in fostering an environment for youth engagement in this area.

Public Policy ­– enabling a youth voice to be heard at a decision-making level to influence public policy. This is a long-term goal; once a youth knowledge base has been established, the potential for youth engagement in this area will increase greatly.

What does the Council hope to achieve?
The Council hopes to achieve greater youth engagement around Antarctic and Southern oceans issues that affect New Zealand. This will involve facilitating a local youth conversation that explores creative and durable solutions to these issues, and collaborating internationally with groups that have similar concerns. It is hoped that this sharing of skills and resources internationally will help to inspire the creation of other environmental youth councils in places where such representation is lacking.

How will the Council achieve this?
The 2016 work programme is currently a work in progress. Prior to the annual event in July, the Council hopes to create fact sheets on Antarctic Ice Sheets and the Antarctic Treaty as part of its educational resource development. The 2016 annual event will be a Winter Forum titled Implications of the Antarctic Treaty: Our shared future. We plan to have a panel session for this discussion.

Over the coming year the Council will also be working hard to expand its community and outreach. If you are interested in connecting with the Council, or in joining as a member, please contact Chair Ngahuia Leighton at antarcticyouthnz@mcguinnessinstitute.org.

For what benefit?
At present, knowledge and awareness of the Antarctic and Southern oceans among policy makers and the general public of New Zealand is low. Raising awareness and creating a conversation amongst young people (as agents for change) will be of benefit to all New Zealanders. A continuous conversation needs to be in place to produce durable solutions and to develop foresight that is of use to New Zealand decision-makers.

What is the Organising Committee?
The Organising Committee of the NZAYC meets quarterly and keeps the wider community of Council members informed and connected between annual plenary events. It is made up of a diverse range of committee members, from law and politics students to scientists with research based in Antarctica. The committee is intended to represent the diversity of the council at large, bringing to the table the wide range of opinions and perspectives of young people with a vested interest in the Antarctic region.

Who is on the Organising Committee?
As of December 2015, the committee is made up of 11 members: Ngahuia Leighton (Chair), Jacob Anderson, Georgina Beasley, Rongo A Whare Bennett, Peggy Cunningham-Hales, Christoph Kraus, Hanne Nielsen, James Tremlett, Lagi Tuimavave, Miranda Voke and Charlie Wilkinson. You can read each member’s bio here.

Contributors to the committee so far include Bella Duncan (former chair), Sira Engelbertz, Wendy McGuinness, Tim Naish, Stuart Prior and Lionel Carter.

What did the Council achieve in 2015?
So far, 2015 has seen the Council develop a constitution, and in December it will register as an incorporated society. The Council held a workshop in May to develop the work programme going forward. As a result of this workshop, the Council created the poster Antarctic and Southern Ocean change: Impact and implications for New Zealand, which was presented during a poster session at the 2015 Antarctic Science Conference held in Christchurch from 29 June to 2 July 2015. The poster illustrates the impacts of climate change on Antarctica and the consequences of this for everyday New Zealanders.

The Antarctic education space was discussed during the workshop. The creation of the poster is one example of how the Council may be able to contribute to Antarctic education in New Zealand over time, but this is an ongoing conversation. Further exploration of how to take this forward will continue into 2016.

How is the Council funded?
The NZAYC began as an initiative of the McGuinness Institute’s Project: One Ocean. The McGuinness Institute continues to provide administrative, financial and advisory support for the Council. The Institute also provides design support to help create outputs, such as the poster mentioned above, which was published in June 2015.

As the Council continues to grow, it will seek funding and support from other organisations as the need arises, and will work to establish partnerships with domestic and international agencies to promote its activities.

How can you be involved?
The Organising Committee is continuously seeking to grow the community of young people committed to the sustainable long-term future of the Antarctic and to the protection of our shared Antarctic heritage. By becoming a member of the NZAYC, you will receive updates on the Committee’s work and invitations to the Council’s annual events. If you are interested in connecting with the Council or in joining as a member, please contact Chair Ngahuia Leighton at antarcticyouthnz@mcguinnessinstitute.org.

We are also looking for organisations that share our vision and that are interested in assisting or supporting the NZAYC. Such involvement could include the provision of financial support, venues, scientific expertise, guest speakers, or legal and marketing advice. Please contact Wendy McGuinness at antarcticyouthnz@mcguinnessinstitute.org to discuss this further.