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Snapshot of our young people

Survey shows drinking, drug use and underage sex common among Wairarapa youth


By Hayley Gastmeier

[email protected]

Drug use, driving while unlicensed, bullying, binge drinking, and underage sex are some of the issues facing the region’s young people, a report says.

The snapshot of the wellbeing of the region’s rangatahi, or youth, was conducted by Wairarapa Safer Communities Trust.

The findings of the Rangatahi Health and Wellbeing Report were collated from 128 anonymous Wairarapa rangatahi, aged between 12 and 21.

Although some of the trends revealed in the report were troubling, many positives such as healthy relationships with friends and whanau, and good nutrition shone through.

Some could speak te reo Maori and others said they were community volunteers.

In general, rangatahi who had good nutrition and who engaged in physical activity, felt good about themselves.

Most had well-established relationships with relatives, school peers, teachers, and Kaumatua.

Most rangatahi, who identified themselves as Maori, were proud of their culture — although more than half were unable to name their own iwi.

Twenty-five per cent reported they could hold a basic conversation in te reo Maori, with nine per cent of those being non-Maori.

The report was prepared by Kohatu Creationz, using the results of a survey carried out by the trust last year.

It is to be launched in the Anzac Hall, Featherston, on Friday, at12.30pm, with a panel discussion on the findings involving district councillors.


Driving behaviours

Of the 62 per cent of rangatahi who drove on public roads, less than half held a driver’s licence.

Half the youths “always” wore their seatbelts, and four per cent “never” buckled up.

In one month, 15 per cent drove after they had been drinking, 13 per cent drove after smoking marijuana, and 16 per cent said they had driven dangerously.

The report noted that “a significant” number of these drivers were unlicensed.


Drugs and alcohol

Methamphetamine and other Class A drugs had been used by 15 per cent of the surveyed youths.

Sixty-seven per cent drank alcohol, with some consuming more than 20 standard drinks in one drinking session.

Fifty-two per cent used marijuana, with 29 per cent saying they smoked it “most days” or “several times a week”.

Almost 70 per cent have smoked cigarettes, with 54 per cent of those smoking between one and 20 daily.

Party pills were used by 23 per cent, while nearly 40 per cent said they had not smoked tobacco or used drugs and alcohol.


Sexual activity

More than half the rangatahi in the survey have had sex, reporting to have had their first sexual encounters between the ages of 11 and 18.

The median age for males was 14.

Half of those sexually active indicated they had had sex with one partner in the last six months, while a quarter said they had had multiple sexual partners in that time.

A third of those youths “always” used contraception, while 44 per cent “never” used it.

Eighteen per cent of the sexually active rangatahi had experienced teen pregnancy, birth, miscarriage, or abortion.


Issues at school

Of the 84 per cent of rangatahi now in an educational institution, half had been truants from school and a third had been stood down at some stage.

Bullying appeared to be another area of concern, with 70 per cent saying they had been victims of it in the past.

Fourteen per cent of youths said in the last year they were bullied “most days”.

Key reasons as to why they thought they were being picked on included physical appearance and sexual orientation.

Thirty-five per cent admitted bullying someone else in the past year.


Home and personal lives

About one in five youths said they had run away from home at least once in the last six months, and at some stage in their lives, close to 30 per cent had been victims of abuse, including physical, sexual, emotional and psychological.

Less than half were receiving support for this.

Forty per cent reported they had made appointments to see a health professional for emotional health worries in the last year.

About 90 per cent had access to a mobile phone, with more than 40 per cent sending or receiving more than 40 texts a day.

Thirty-six per cent said they helped in the community, either through volunteering, or helping at their church, marae, or youth group, including R2R.

When asked where they access support, they indicated their friends and family members, followed by teachers and school councillors, with Maori youths also seeking help from Kaumatua.


  1. “Although some of the trends revealed in the report were troubling, many positives such as healthy relationships with friends and whanau, and good nutrition shone through” …… Wairarapa Times-Age why do you not highlight some of these in your words headlining this piece instead of only the difficulties??

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Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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