Brought up into the family firm of copper merchants, Young soon became heavily involved in the colonisation efforts in New Zealand. Already a shareholder in the New Zealand Company, Young became shipping manager in 1850 to the Canterbury Association, "an experiment in high-Anglican colonisation". Throughout his life, Young always carried enthusiasm for charitable causes, which can be seen during his time living in Cobham from 1857, to 1867. His time spent in Cobham saw him become a member of the local volunteers and help to rebuild the parish church. In 1869 he became a fellow of the Royal Colonial Institute, before sitting on its council and later becoming Honorary Secretary.