Exhibition of Young Lives in Seven Cites comes to UC

How can we live well with less carbon? This is a question being put to UC students in a study of Christchurch and 6 other world cities led by Professor Bronwyn Hayward and Dr Kate Prendergast. The study is featured for the next two weeks in a brightly coloured panel display in the Central Library Puaka – James Hight exhibition space (ground floor) until the end of September. The display has been touring the city libraries spaces and now it’s come home to UC with a chance for students to tell us about how they currently live, what they like about this city and what they want to change.

We started this study in 2018 with focus groups of 12-24 year olds across Christchurch as part of the global ESRC funded study called CYCLES (Children and Youth in Cities – Lifestyle Evaluations and Sustainability) which UC leads to understand life in 7 world cities. Students took photos of a day in their life and shared what they valued- now we are asking a much larger group to give us their views.

As our city confronts COVID-19 and thinks about what a community needs to do to support young citizens to live well in a changing climate, young people point to some possible options.

What are students telling us?

Being able to get around the city is important to young people we’ve heard from so far. They say while they like independence of buses many still find the fares are “unaffordable”, and bus travel can be “difficult and time consuming”.

Young people are also saying they value social connections. In a time of social distancing, this is a reminder that our city needs innovative ways to bring people together. Many of the youngest respondents want more places than “just the malls” to “hang out”. They love the Margaret Mahy playground, but want more spaces to connect online and offline. For some the costs of Wi-Fi and the need for online connectivity are just too high.

During lockdown, we spent many hours in our own homes. So far students we are hearing from say they value friendships and time with families at home but a large number talk about serious housing problems. Some say their houses have been flooded, others that they are still earthquake-damaged. We are hearing from young people whose families are unable to afford regular heating and rely on blankets, wearing puffer jackets inside, and using “hot water bottles” to keep warm.

COVID-19 has given many people of all ages a chance to pause and think about what is really important. Being able to move around the city freely, connecting with others, enjoying our local neighbourhoods, and living in decent houses matters for our collective wellbeing.

We’d now like to know what UC students think about living in Christchurch. If you want to have your voice heard you can visit the library exhibition or go online and take part in the anonymous survey.