by Greta Yeoman
Geraldine teenager Jackson Minnear took part in Youth Parliament last month.
The South Canterbury resident was representing Waitaki National MP Jacqui Dean at the youth event, along with 120 other youth MPs from around the country.
One of the final tasks of the Youth MPs during their two-day trip to Parliament last month was to present a speech to their peers.
Jackson spoke about “rare earth minerals” and their potential for the country’s economy. The Courier has republished Jackson’s speech with his permission.
We live in a beautiful country with mountains, lakes, rivers and native bush.
But there is something very exciting beneath our feet and I’m not talking about gold.
My name is Jackson Minnear, and my speech is titled “Regaining Prosperity for New Zealand From Rare Earth Minerals and Nuclear Energy”.
Jackson was joined by Timaru’s Phoebe Scarsbrook, who represented Rangitata National MP Andrew Falloon, and Jessica Timmo, of Ashburton, who represented Rangitata Labour list MP Jo Luxton.
The two-day event in late July was held at Parliament, where participants took part in a range of activities, including mock parliamentary debates and speeches.
Ms Dean said Jackson looked “completely at home” in the corridors of Parliament and she enjoyed watching him debating a range of topical issues.
“The Youth Parliament is a wonderful way for young people to get a taste of politics and I was more than happy to vacate my seat in the debating chamber for Jackson.”
Jackson said Youth Parliament was “an amazing experience”, particularly gathering with other like-minded young people, meeting politicians from around New Zealand and observing a National Party caucus session, which was attended by 20 MPs.
Youth MPs were asked to present a speech on a chosen topic. However Jackson quickly adapted his following “a controversy” sparked by the Speaker, MP Anne Tolley, after she asked the young people to deliver speeches with little reference to their written material.
“Most Youth MPs had written speeches that they intended to read. With this directive, I quickly rewrote my speech which was a shortened version of what I had prepared.”
Ms Dean said Jackson represented the Waitaki electorate “with pride” and hoped the experience could prompt him to consider a career in politics.
“I thoroughly enjoyed sitting back and listening to him speak about electric vehicles and how the batteries could be made right here in our own backyard. It was a refreshing take on the issue and he was articulate in getting his point across.
“It’s no mean feat for a teenager to stand up and deliver a speech in front of their peers, a whole lot of MPs and parliamentary staff in such an imposing environment.”
Youth Parliament is held every three years and is attended by young people chosen by their electorate MPs to learn about the parliamentary system and have their voices heard on a range of issues.
A recent GNS study revealed the potential of rare earth deposits in several parts of New Zealand.
How important are these in our everyday life?
Lithium is used in energy dense batteries, from cars and laptops, to electric bikes.
Neodymium is used in modern electric induction motors. Holmium is used in MRI scans. Cerium is used to polish glass!
You wouldn’t have a smart phone but for rare earth elements.
These minerals are extremely valuable. We need to make it easier for New Zealanders to find, extract and use them, as they will bring wealth and innovation to our country.
This Government needs to act now as the world tightens its grip on rare earth minerals.
When we access our rare earth minerals, the thorium byproduct can be converted to uranium-233 which is a nuclear reactor fuel.
Nuclear reactors are an important energy source from around the world generating not just electricity but producing controlled radiation that is used in our medical industry, including for cancer treatment.
Further, radioactive sources are used in agriculture, industry, research and education. Many of the radioactive isotopes that we need are imported from overseas.
What if New Zealand had the potential to produce its own?
Did you know? New Zealand is not nuclear free, New Zealand is nuclear-weapon free.
Legislation does not prohibit the exploration of nuclear science – in fact every secondary school and university in New Zealand is entitled to possess 1 pound of uranium and 1 pound of thorium to conduct experiments with.
Teachers and students can greatly benefit by having nuclear sciences expanded in the curriculum.
As we surpass the hydrocarbon age, the people of New Zealand are looking to the Government to encourage world-leading innovation.
The fact that New Zealanders consume nearly all of the power that is produced, we need a new solution now.
A good start would focus on the building of a nuclear research reactor in New Zealand.
Now, a century after Ernest Rutherford split the atom, we must continue our pioneering spirit for nuclear energy, and rare earth minerals can lead the way to a more prosperous future for us all.