Chamber of Commerce Q+A

21 09 2013

MyPositionFarms

 

The Gisborne Chamber of Commerce asked candidates five questions, these are my responses…

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I have enjoyed first term on Council, part of that was on the Chamber Executive and I’d like to see those links strengthened a little more as I think Brian Wilson and myself acted as a useful conduit between the Council and Chamber on a number of issues.

I think I’ve been able to make intelligent, sensible and considered contributions to Council and I’ve helped raise the quality of discussion, debate and decision-making.

I’ve had a focus on increasing public involvement in planning and decisions and been a strong advocate for the city and the district as a whole.

I have listened to residents and ratepayers (even after being elected!), worked well with others (who don’t always share the same values and views) and helped make good decisions in the best interest of the region as a whole.

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1. What do you see as the GDC’s role in contributing to economic development and growth in this region?

Council has a key role in a number of areas contributing to economic development:

  1. Providing good quality infrastructure, predictable regulation & consistent planning
  2. Collecting and disseminating information that helps the community make informed decisions on the direction for the district
  3. Advocating for the district at central government – ensuring our big issues are nationally significant issues.
  4. Facilitating relationships between stakeholders to realise opportunities and achieve sustainable solutions in the best interest of the district where there are competing priorities.

Some of functions within these areas, particulatly information gathering and sharing, advocacy and relationship brokerage could be devolved to an Economic Development Agency run separate to Council. But the Mayor and Council have a critical leadership role in advocating on behalf of the region – especially on things like roading, new costs being imposed by central government legislation, etc. And political leadership can help broker mutually beneficial relationships with industry, iwi, land owners, research institutions, entrepreneurs, etc.

Council can also have procurement and banking policies that benefit the local community in different ways.

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2. What is your view of the core role of council? Do you consider there are any current council activities that do not fit this role?

Under new legislation the purpose of local government is now to provide quality infrastructure, regulation & essential services. Opposition parties have pledged to revert the purpose back to promoting sustainable development and local cultural, environmental, social and economic wellbeing.

I’m not completely wedded to Council providing social housing. I have argued it could be sold to a Charitable Trust, housing cooperative or something like ECT but wouldn’t want to see them go to private ownership. I’m also open to Council not owning any or all of its commercial assets (WOF station, holiday park, farms) if there are compelling financial reasons to divest from these enterprises. We need an urgent review of Council asset ownership to identify options and the benefits of retaining or releasing these enterprises.

Tauwhareparae Farms are being well run but I’m not convinced we need to retain them. They were acquired to supplement port income and will always provide low value compared to capital committed, as the trees appreciate so will the capital value. There is no legal risk in selling them and my preference would be as Margaret Thorpe suggests to land-bank them via OTS as they are subject to Treaty claims. This will ensure we get a premium price, they are retained in local ownership and we demonstrate goodwill to the traditional owners.

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3. Businesses have to live within their means, or face the consequences. What is your view with regard to GDC achieving the same discipline around keeping rates increases in check?

Significant savings have been made by previous and current CEO to trim as much as possible. More ‘savings’ could be found but that depends on what we want to give up and what quality of life we can tolerate.

I campaigned on rates rises at or below inflation and we have achieved that. The ‘razor gang’ didn’t make any significant savings. I also campaigned on getting more predictable rates system with smaller variations year on year and we are making good progress on this through the participatory rates review process.

Council league tables suggest we are now one of the most financially sustainable and we rank 26 out of 73 councils for cost of rates.

Councillors are financially conservative and understand the limits of affordability for residents, but the WMT suggests this is not the case. That massive blowout and the need to address some basic first suggest some of the fancy projects need to be reviewed while we attend to the basics first.

If the community has things they think we should stop doing or not start they have the opportunity every year and we listen to that feedback.

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4. What is your position with respect to the re-opening of the Gisborne to Napier rail line?

The railway line a billion dollar public asset that is lying idle while Gisborne and Wairoa businesses scream out for it to make our products more competitive. Some people say logs will never go South on it but there are massive forests between Napier and Gisborne that will provide the anchor business for the line so that containerised seasonal produce and timber coming out and fertiliser going to Gisborne can be transported by rail instead of trucks. Coastal shipping is unlikely to ever be viable if the rail is operating.

More trucks on the road means more cost in maintenance, more congestion and more danger for other motorists – it also means more cost for local businesses and more competition from other places that have lower freight costs.

With the support of 10,000 signatures and $20,000 given by local businesses and residents, we commissioned a study that demonstrated the lack of rigor in the government’s position and the potential for a realistic business case if roads and rail were considered on a level playing field by central government.

A different government next year will reinstate the line if the local business consortium is unable to raise the funds required. Some candidates say they don’t don’t support ratepayers funding the line operation – that has never been a realistic option – but Council could be a stronger advocate for the line.

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5. If you were elected to the council, what activities or actions would you take to ensure Gisborne becomes an even better place to work, live and play?

I will keep doing what I have been:

-  all of the above, plus…

-  working with the IT sector to establish local computer hubs for young people and families with few opportunities to access IT, career pathways via the Techxpo and partnership with major NZ telcos

- advocating for more central government support for our district (transport, rail, imposed costs, renewable energy, forestry carbon credits, aquaculture, etc.) and working with iwi and other stakeholders on these issues

- leading a gang transformation project focused on employment and working with employers and support services

- review commercial assets

- keep rates at or below inflation

- continue support for better commuter cycling and walking infrastructure

- more emphasis on local housing issues – affordable, healthy housing for everyone, not provided by Council but Council facilitating government, community and private sectors working together

- continue emphasising the importance of opportunities for public input on issues like forestry harvest rules, petroleum exploration applications, legislative submissions, etc.

- continue work on Māori land issues – Council working with landowners to look at how to make the land more productive and/or revert to indigenous forest

-  continue supporting illegal dumping prevention and removal, and more ambitious waste minimisation targets.

- continue bringing diverse parts of the community together to address complex issues

- continue voluntary involvement in a wide range of community groups and local issues.





Dealing with Our Crap

1 04 2013

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Thanks so much to Tami Gooch and Sam Tamanui for organising the Kopututea beach clean-up. Thanks also to the businesses that generously donated equipment, food and time.

Special thanks to the more than 200 Gisborne people, especially the young people, who spent a few hours of Good Friday cleaning up the mess caused by some irresponsible individuals.

Illegal dumping suggests some of us are not prepared to deal properly with stuff after we have finished with it. I don’t accept the excuse that transfer station fees are too expensive; if we can afford to buy or use something, we need to take responsibility for the whole life cycle of the item.

The bulk of the crap we picked up (and there was quite a few bags of dog poo as well as a whole dog) were small deposits of household waste that would easily fit in a black rubbish bag to be collected from the curb with the orange stickers provided by council.

In addition to the two over-filled skip bins, we delivered a trailer and carload of recycling to the transfer station — this is, of course, free to dispose of every week as the recycling truck drives past every home.

There was a fair amount of biodegradable waste, including garden waste (could make compost or drop to the green waste facility) and a number of animal parts (use the offal pit on the farm the animal came from).

It’s a beautiful stretch of coastline, let’s all respect it and keep it clean!





Turbo-Charging Tairāwhiti Technology Take-Up

19 09 2012

Lytton High School students demonstrating Auto-CAD to Ilminster Intermediate students at Tairāwhiti Techxpo 2012.

I recently visited two initiatives in Auckland to look at what they are doing with young people and technology. At Point England School in Glen Innes students all have their own NetBook, each family pays $3.50 per week for the child to have their own device for school and home work. At Clubhouse 274 in Otara I visited the Community Technology Centre where students go after school to use high-end equipment they can’t access at home and many were working on commercial projects.

Recently a number of local people and projects have converged to progress some exciting technology opportunities for the district that are already having positive social and economic outcomes, but more support is urgently required.

Tairawhiti Techxpo was a great day last week that provided a solid foundation for a bigger and better event next year. Thanks to the schools that participated, we had hundreds of young people get a taste of employment and career opportunities in the Information and Communication Technology sectors of robotics, hardware, networking, software, app development, entertainment, aerospace, imaging, animation and computer-aided-design industries.

Thanks must also go to the generous sponsors including Te Wānanga o Aotearoa, EIT Tairāwhiti, Eastland Community Trust and the small businesses and individuals that contributed on the day and through the event organising.

One of the Techxpo keynote speakers from Wellington joined the monthly Gizzy Geeks meeting in the evening. Nathalie Whitaker is a net entrepreneur and is keen to move to Gisborne with a number of her colleagues, the lifestyle, surf and clean environment are what attract them. Something that would make Tairawhiti even more appealing to these IT entrepreneurs is for Gisborne to have a bunch of competent geeks who can do the technical programming work that sits behind the software products Nathalie and her friends develop.

What the Techxpo highlighted was that our high schools are now growing such talent locally. Lytton High School had a large contingent of IT experts and Gisborne Girls’ High School and Campion College were also very well represented in the demonstrations provided by students. Other schools have already booked a spot for next year to showcase the skills and products being developed through cutting-edge teaching and learning.

A number of Gisborne school students are now making and selling smartphone apps internationally – this is a $40billion global market with over 10 billion downloads last year alone.

The Rangitawaea Nati Awards next week is an annual fixture that encourages and recognises IT talent in Ngati Porou schools, another fabulous showcase of skills and creativity grown in our region and reaching out to the world.

The Techxpo, the Gizzy Geeks group, the Nati Awards and the new Tairāwhiti Computer Hub Trust have proved a fertile ground for collaboration between technology specialists and a number of exciting new business opportunities are emerging from the relationships built around particular skills, interests and networks.

And where does all this sit in terms of regional economic development planning? It is dismissed in the Regional Economic Development Strategy (2009) as an unlikely prospect and rendered invisible in the subsequent Economic Development Action Plan. Perhaps this absence is not a big issue considering the Action Plan has been largely ignored from the day it was produced.

What is important is that the IT sector is recognised as a cornerstone of every local business and that it is factored into the priorities of entities like the Eastland Community Trust and Gisborne District Council that have a focus on supporting sustainable economic development. While public entities ‘don’t pick winners’, they do provide limitations and opportunities for the expansion of particular industries.

We need to look urgently at what infrastructure beyond Ultrafast Broadband will enable a fledgling IT sector to quickly become a serious economic driver for our local communities. Neighbourhood computer hubs, low-cost residential wi-fi and a commercial programming academy seem sensible ideas to explore.





Subsidies & Spinners

31 07 2012

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Oil lobbyist David Robinson in a recent column said we should let the public make up their own minds: “we can argue back and forth, back and forth using hand-picked examples of why each point of view is right. But that’s not helping anyone.” Of course he included with this statement with a few hand-picked examples.

I guess I do have personal ideology as Mr Robinson claims but I don’t agree it should be ‘put aside’ – it’s an ideology that favours all of the relevant information being made available to the public so we can make free, prior and informed decisions. Any opposition I have has developed since looking beyond the industry PR spin ($185m worth of lobbying in the US alone last year) and trying to take seriously the science related to human use of petroleum and its impact on the planet.

Beyond the climate implications, it seems useful to refer to people with direct experience of the industry, like Caleb Behn who acknowledges the income that can be derived from oil. Weighing these benefits with the negative social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts in his homelands, Caleb is strongly opposed and warns others to look carefully at the situation in British Columbia and Alberta.

The farmer speaking in Gisborne this week is in no way ‘philosophically opposed to the oil and gas industry’ – if Mr Robinson had read her story in The Washington Post he would have seen that Ms. Vargson and her husband used to maintain a herd of dairy cattle but got out of that business because of methane getting into their well water, a fact confirmed by the state regulators. The couple now work at other jobs and worry their son won’t be able to farm there either. Ms. Vargson permitted drilling of a gas well in the pasture behind her home, but the experience has raised serious doubts. Drilling “can be done safely,” she said. “I believe that the technology is there.” But she added: “I believe that for the most part the industry takes a lot of shortcuts.”

The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) and UK Royal Society’s fracking report probably hasn’t been widely promoted because it omits some key facts: the RAE’s ex-President is Lord Browne, Chairman of Cuadrilla, the UK’s leading fracker. Lord Browne was head of the RAE until last year and owns 30% of Cuadrilla.

The RAE is also part funded by the oil and gas industry. In the last three years the RAE has taken £601,000 from oil companies with links to fracking. The same organisation has awarded cash prizes to BP engineers for their work in hydraulic fracturing.

The influence of the oil and gas industry on the RAE has not decreased with Lord Browne’s departure. His successor – Sir John Parker – is closely connected to the fracking industry. Before taking over at the RAE, Parker headed Anglo American with their fracking interests in in South Africa. Parker is a gas man through and through – some of his previous positions include non-executive director at British Gas, Chairman of National Grid Transco (gas distribution) and non-executive of BG Group (which has coal bed methane interests in Scotland).

Mr Robinson says renewables are too expensive, I agree. If it wasn’t for the one trillion dollars of annual public subsidies awarded to the fossil fuel industries and permissive legislation that allows continued access to relatively cheap fossil fuels, renewable technology would be affordable to most of us.

It was great to hear Rod Drury this week talking about how his software company may soon overtake Fonterra as New Zealand’s largest business. IT entrepreneurs are keen to move to Gisborne for the lifestyle and environment it currently offers. Some locals have been in contact with a biochemicals company in California that has huge potential and is interested in establishing a demonstration plant on the East Coast. These seem like far more sensible opportunities for our community to encourage than the dirty business of oil.





What is the Purpose of Local Government?

19 07 2012

The Local Government Act Amendment Bill has had its first reading in Parliament. One of the key parts of the bill is redefining the reason local government exists. Should councils be focused on priorities that local people agree on, or should they be just another branch of central government?

The basis of the proposed changes seems largely ideological rather than driven by a particular problem. Council debt, losses on tourist initiatives and rates rises above the rate of inflation have been the subject of regular media releases from central government. A very small number of councils have made mistakes and local government is partly responsible for the traction these stories get in the news. We’re not always great at helping the public understand the balancing act between local expectations, affordability and the existing regulatory frameworks council has to operate within.

Most councils seem to share concerns about the lack of evidence upon which the draft legislation is based and about the implications of working under legislation that hasn’t been well thought out. Similar reservation were expressed by the officials who submitted a statement along with the draft legislation and said they could find no evidence to support most of content of the bill. This lack of confidence was reinforced this week in the unanimous rejection of the proposed change of purpose at a meeting of all local government authorities.

Three separate public inquiries have concluded that the sector has not significantly expanded the scope of its activities since 2002. When pushed, the Prime Minister would not exclude things like social housing, swimming pools, libraries or tourism promotion from falling within the proposed new purposes. So the general feeling is that the current purpose is fine – the uncertainty created in the proposed new purposes would open up a can of worms in terms of legal challenges and that there was no problem that will be solved with the proposed change.

As has been suggested locally, I would be open to a social housing trust taking over Council housing if it had the experience and could prove it could do as good or better job than Gisborne District Council currently does as a landlord. Such a move would need to ensure the housing is provided to those who most need it, particularly as central government is similarly messing with the provision of social housing and has been criticized by its own Productivity Commission for having no clear plan or rationale for the changes.

I don’t think we should hold on to purely commercial assets if they aren’t consistently providing a return on investment better than what we’d get if we used the capital to pay off debt and reduce interest payments. As far as I can tell, the first asset to divest the Council of should be the farms. I struggle to understand why some people believe Council must maintain ownership of the farms while we pay millions in interest on debt. How ‘pragmatic’ is that?

The reality is the proposed change of purpose would not result in Council stopping anything it currently does, but it would give more fuel to fire of the ideologues who argue local government should take no interest in the wellbeing of our communities beyond roads and rubbish. A change of purpose would waste staff time defending the participatory planning processes that result in more enduring decisions than if we think councillors or staff know best. I also suspect it would undermine opportunities for Council, as the one fully democratically elected local entity, to have some influence on how our taxes and rates are spent to help meet the needs and aspirations of our communities.





Tairāwhiti families encouraged to go Screen-Free for the week

29 04 2012

International Screen-Free Week starts today and Gisborne families are being encouraged to think about taking a break from technology.

Head Librarian Pene Walsh says: “Over 20,000 Gisborne people can’t be wrong. The members of HB Williams Memorial Library have increased their book borrowing by 20% over the same time last year. Surely that must mean their screen-time has shrunk by 20%.

Even though it is easier than ever to goggle at the telly, google on the computer, txt and tweet, fiddle about on Facebook or game the night away, when you add all that time up I reckon you’d be amazed and maybe feel there is a teeny bit more to life.

In our house all screentime is counted together so we choose and when time’s up, it is up.

Just ask Councillor Manu Caddie’s whanau – they have agreed to stop watching TV or going on the internet in the evenings – good on them, why don’t we join him for Screenfree week and try some ‘faceface’ time and visit one of our 200 friends or even try a bit of ‘bookbook’ time – yep, actually read one!

I for one will be reading several of the 120 children’s books entered in the LIANZA Children’s Book Awards and getting off my backside to visit my old neglected friend – yoga.”

Father of two and Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie said his family had recently put away the TV permanently and this week were having a break from the internet at home and it may stay that way.

“Most Kiwi families have television at home now, some screens are really dominant – both in the sheer physical size and the time its on all hours of the day and night.

Our kids love using the computer but some of the stuff is so compelling they forget about playing outside. We live in paradise and I want to make sure the kids get to enjoy their environment, use their imagination to create and not be completely sucked in by multinational corporations forcing brands down their throats.”

Screen-Free Week (www.screenfree.org) is an international project of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood and this year runs from 30 April to 6 May. Since 1996, millions of children and their families have participated in Screen-Free Week (formerly TV Turnoff). Each year, thousands of parents, teachers, librarians, youth workers and clergy organise Screen-Free Weeks in their communities.

New Zealand research has found links between watching too much TV in childhood and later problems, including obesity, high cholesterol, poor fitness, smoking, short attention span, poor concentration – and lower rates of school and university qualifications.

One of the researchers, Dr Bob Hancox, said the educational effects of television viewing could not be explained by intelligence or socio-economic factors.

“It’s not just that children with little natural ability decided to watch more television. Children of all levels of intelligence did worse if they watched a lot of television.

“Similarly, the association between watching television and poor achievement was not because heavy television viewers had poor socio-economic backgrounds.

“There is extraordinarily strong evidence now that [screen] media have a major impact on children and adolescents. It’s not surprising because they spend many hours a day with media, of which television is the most important.”





Hoping Hēkia’s here to help

3 04 2012


I appreciated the opportunity that Minister of Education Hekia Parata provided last week for local school Board of Trustees and Principals to meet with her.

The Minister has been passionate about the benefits of education for a long time and it is exciting to see someone born on the Coast in such a senior position again.

I was excited to hear about developments in governance coming out of the Christchurch situation. Ten years ago the Kiwa Education Partnership discussed a campus-based approach to schooling in Gisborne but it doesn’t seem to have eventuated. Cluster governance makes sense when we think about a village raising a child and a seamless transition between early childhood education, primary and secondary schooling.

It was somewhat reassuring to hear the Minister say she doesn’t see any need to link performance-based pay to National Standards. One of the big fears in low decile schools is that such a policy could see highly skilled teachers moving to schools where more students have participated in quality early childhood education and have better access to support for their learning. Advice from Treasury officials also reject pay based on test scores.

Ministry of Education research shows that students from poorer communities generally have slower progress than their peers – the level of material resources available to families, health problems, substance abuse and conflict, all have a deep impact on the ability of students to attend school and learn. If pay is based on the rate of progression, this may also disadvantage teachers and communities where progression is slower because of external influences.

High student expectations from parents and teachers is essential and building strong partnerships between home and school is one of the most important things we can do.

Class sizes do have a major impact on student achievement and the secondary teachers current collective agreement limits class size to no more than 26 students. While it may save money to squeeze more kids into each class, we should expect learning to be compromised.

Though it seems to go against the whole basis of the National Standards her government pushed through in their last term, I was pleased to hear the Minister acknowledge that one size doesn’t fit all and progression in learning and achievement levels should be ‘flexible’.

It was also reassuring to hear the Minister sees inequality as a major issue that the country needs to address – both in terms of educational achievement and socio-economic status. Of course we are yet to see what the plan is for addressing the growing inequalities, fuelled in part by some massive tax cuts for those of us who least need them while future generations are being burdened with government loans from China.

Schools are not solely responsible for addressing every issue facing kids – neither is central government, nor parents or the wider community. But together each stakeholder has an important part to play in pulling together the pieces of the puzzle.

Beginning a ‘conversation’ on what the goals should be and how as a community and country we can achieve them is an admirable and pragmatic approach for any new Minister. I hope the commitment to a mutually meaningful dialogue is genuine and key stakeholders all have a real opportunity to shape the direction of education in New Zealand. Tough choices have to be made all the time by those wielding power in public but including all of the people most affected by decisions in the process is essential for good results to be achieved and enduring.

Manu Caddie is Chairperson of a school Board of Trustees but these views do not necessarily reflect those of the school staff, whānau or BOT.





2012 Projects

26 02 2012
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Some of the stuff I’m focused on this year…
  1. Gang Transformation Project via GDC, Police, schools, churches, sports clubs and residents associations
  2. Representation Review: ensuring the fairest electoral structure for Tairāwhiti via GDC
  3. Regional Housing Needs Assessment via GDC
  4. Keeping Kids Safe Project via Te Ora Hou Aotearoa
  5. Neighbourhood Resource Centres via HNZC, Ka Pai Kaiti Trust & Te Ora Hou
  6. Computer Clubhouse for Waikirikiri School
  7. Gisborne-Napier railway retention via Gisborne Rail Action Group
  8. Cycleways & Walkways via GDC Ten Year Plan, NZTA, Cycling Advisory Group, etc.
  9. Māori Land & Rates via GDC Māori Land Working Group with TPK, etc.
  10. Central Government better linked into local priorities via Whānau Ora, MSD, etc.
  11. Pēnu Marae – new wharepaku and wharenui roof hopefully
  12. Rere Rockslide – stream quality monitoring and restoration project
  13. Economic Development projects – biofuels and biochemistry projects, regional skills development and entrepreneurs recruitment campaign




Grace Under Fire

4 10 2011

242 years ago this week, the Endeavour dropped anchor just off Kaiti Beach and so began contact between the British and Māori.

45 years later the first British missionaries arrived in the Bay of Islands and began their work of ministering to the Europeans and converting Māori.

A controversial legacy of evangelism in these islands meant missionaries were forced to choose sides between those they were called to minister to and the dictates of settlers and their government. Missionary roles in the drafting, promotion and signing tours of versions of Te Tiriti o Waitangi have also been hotly debated.

William Williams held the first service in Tairawhiti in 1834 and in the same month the Treaty was signed he acquired for the Church Missionary Society a large area of the Poverty Bay flats from Turanga Maori.

Thomas Grace arrived at Manutuke in 1850 and quickly found himself offside with speculators and land grabbers who were acquiring and grazing land under dubious terms. Grace also noted that local Māori received from settlers only half the price paid to Europeans for produce and livestock.

Challenging these and other discriminatory practices meant Grace fell out with the local settlers and fellow missionaries who accused him of ‘stirring up strife between the Maori and the settlers’. Grace walked from Gisborne to Tauranga then caught a boat to Auckland to defend the charge only to find the meeting had dealt with the issue just before he arrived!

The church hierarchy provided little support to Grace and he went on to continue challenging the practices of settlers and questioning the role of the church in the rapacious process of colonisation.

Grace’s biography is available in the HB Williams Memorial Library and provides a fitting tribute to a man dedicated to his calling and the best traditions of Christian faith.





Rites of passage research identifies keys for healthy, prosperous communities

27 07 2011

What life lessons did previous generations of young people need to learn before they became adults? Could these rites of passage provide some answers to the multiple challenges facing young Maori today? These two questions were the foundation for a three year national project led by Gisborne researcher Manu Caddie and a team of youth workers from around the country.

Youth workers from Christchurch, Wellington, Whanganui, Whangarei and Tairawhiti interviewed Maori elders in their community with a focus on their experiences as children and adolescents. The interviews were filmed and key messages from the stories compiled into a written summary.

On Sunday night, 6pm at the Dome Cinema in Gisborne, the findings from the project will be released at a public screening of “Hei Tikitiki” a new DVD featuring highlights from more than 30 interviews. A 90 page report summarising the research findings will be available along with copies of the DVD.

The project received financial support from the Lottery Community Sector Research Fund and was based on a proposal Mr Caddie prepared for Te Ora Hou Aotearoa in 2008. Te Ora Hou is a national network of faith-based Maori youth and community development organisations established in 1976. “Te Ora Hou youth workers have contact with hundreds of young people and families every week, we decided this research was essential to do if we wanted to assist with healthy transitions into adulthood” said Mr Caddie. “The 21st yard glass, passing exams and making babies are modern day rites of passage but there are some fundamental life lessons that aren’t being taught to young people, in fact advertising, entertainment media and consumer culture promote the exact opposite of values previous generations were required to accept before being considered responsible adults.”

“It’s been a fairly drawn out process, some of the people interviewed have since passed away, so the footage we have of their stories is very significant to their families” said Mr Caddie. “It was a really special inter-generational experience for the young people and youth workers to interview their elders. I would like to see an on-going project established in Gisborne where we support young people to record the stories and reflections of our elderly. The way society is structured now we tend to segregate the age groups and the wisdom of older people is lost if they do not have the opportunity to share it with the younger generations coming through.”

Anthropology has for at least the last 200 years looked at the purpose of rites of passage within cultures. “A rite of passage deals with entering a new stage of life, maturation in physical, social and sexual status and membership of a new group” said Mr Caddie. The researchers  important theme running through much of the literature is that rites of passage do not exist for the benefit of the individual participating in the process but for the benefit of the community and culture to which the person belongs.”

Most of the interviewees had grown up in communities and a time where Te Reo was the dominant language and tikanga Māori was still the dominant culture. A few had direct experience of traditional institutions like the whare wananga or were mentored by tohunga and kuia born in the 19th Century who ensured certain processes and rituals were in place for the child and adolescents.

Many of the interviewees felt that their experience of rites of passage was more a general process of development rather than an explicit event or an intentional set of lessons that the teachers and learners were consciously participating in.

Interviewees identified a range of experiences more closely assigned with western or contemporary rites of passage including leaving home, first job and working to support parents and siblings, getting a mortgage, general educational advancement including Māori trade training schemes, personal rites of passage, legal marriage, being given or taking responsibility for housework and farm work, choosing own clothing, fashion as a symbol of independence and enlisting in the military.

Common themes that emerged about the purpose and outcomes from experiences that they considered rites of passage include the intergenerational transmission of:

-        Maramatanga / essential values: manaakitanga (hospitality), respect for and valuing the guidance of elders, strong work ethic, personal integrity, contribution to the wellbeing of the whole community, respect and care for the natural environment and other creatures, etc.

-        Mātauranga / essential knowledge: whakapapa (genealogy and how different whānau, hapū and iwi are connected), wahi tapu (sacred places), wahi kai (food sources), battle-sites, astrology, astronomy and patterns of natural phenomenon that guide certain activities, roles and responsibilities of particular whānau within the hapū, cross-cultural comparisons, etc.

-        Mahitanga / essential skills: cultivating food, hunting and collecting food, preparing and storing food, communication skills (whaikōrero/karanga/kōrero/karakia) and hosting skills, house building, martial arts, creative arts and crafts, caring for the natural environment, etc.

Less intentional lessons were also learnt through some experiences such as the importance of alcohol in whānau life, the gendered nature of work, the cyclical nature of violence, etc.

All of the interviewees were able to provide examples of what they considered rites of passage. These were all personal experiences from their childhood and adolescence, in some cases pre-birth and for a few there were experiences they had in late adulthood – a few spoke of practices common in their community that they were aware of in their lifetime or their parents life.

Only a few interviewees were able to share stories of how they participated in particular rituals, institutions or events that would adhere to the famous three stage (separation, transition, and reincorporation) rites of passage. However nearly all of the experiences shared were consistent with the idea of rites of passages being markers of transition from one state of being to another, of being directed by and for the benefit of the wider community and of being essential for the intergenerational transmission of cultural values and community knowledge.

The interviewees stories validate the claim of other recent research that the rite of passage process not only guides the individual’s transition to a new status, but, equally important, it creates public events that celebrate the transition and reaffirm community values, which inform and guide expectations for behaviours essential for the group’s survival.

Mr Caddie said he hopes the project will provide a useful resource for anyone interested in positive youth development, social progress and how we pass on values and knowledge between generations. While the project focused on Maori experiences, Mr Caddie believes the principles and lessons learnt can be applied across any cultural group.

“While government advisors and think-tanks like the New Zealand Institute have identified the real social and economic crisis New Zealand young people find themselves in, we think there are some solutions emerging from the stories of our old people and we need to think about how those experiences might be translated into a contemporary context. There are implications from this research for employment, enterprise, mental health, parenting, education and crime prevention. That’s the next piece of work to be done as we consider the learnings from this report for a broad range of social, cultural and economic issues.”

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Full research report available online from 1 August 2011 at: www.teorahou.org.nz




The Place Where Talent Chooses to Reside

30 06 2011

Presentations in Gisborne this week from two very successful New Zealanders provided clear challenges for us all to support a new direction for our district.

Sir Paul Callaghan undermined conventional thinking that has suggested primary commodities, tourism, wine or even farming can be the economic saviours of the district and nation.

Professor Callaghan made two critical points that as a district we must come to terms with.

The first was to expose the complete myth that we are an egalitarian society. Income disparities have been growing exponentially and we are one of the least equal countries in the OECD. That is a problem not only for the poor but for everyone because countries with greater inequality have worse health, education and crime problems and lower productivity than more equal countries.

The second crucial fact we must acknowledge is that the country has reached the limits of exploiting our natural environment. Resource management decisions have built the wealth of the country but also polluted most low-lying waterways, native species are disappearing forever and we can’t intensify farming to earn our way to a prosperous future.

Professor Callaghan is committed to raising productivity to a level that means the country can afford world leading health care, education and environmental protections. But his message was very clear on this – we have to preserve our natural environment and biodiversity both for its own sake and if we want to attract and retain talent. As he said recently “Talent will goes where talent chooses. And, by and large, talent likes to live where lifestyle is best. The reason is simple. These sorts of businesses can be anywhere. Their markets are entirely overseas, their major component is knowledge and their cost of transport to customers is negligible.”

We heard how Ian Taylor had ideas and opportunities that could have taken him to live in lots of great places around the world, but he wanted to live in Dunedin and raise a family there. The entrepreneurs, scientists and cultural creatives that innovate and develop world-leading products now choose places that are about the lifestyle they want not the physical proximity to markets or research facilities.

There are some basics of course: clean water, reliable electricity, broadband and transport options, decent schools, participatory democracy and a vibrant cultural life all seem pretty important. In our situation some more investment in Information Communication Technology infrastructure, start-up support and greater clarity on regional development goals wouldn’t go amiss. Overall Gisborne is well positioned and already attracting talented people who choose to live in this place – close to the beach, close to marae, without traffic jams, urban sprawl and fear of neighbours.

As Professor Callaghan says, smart firms will locate where their smartest employees want to live. They may not choose large cities. There are small town examples already and there is no reason why Gisborne, Tolaga Bay or Mautuke shouldn’t be locations for high value export manufacturers. Broadband and FedEx can deliver their products to customers anywhere in the world, as fast as from Auckland, Shanghai or London.

So knowledge-based talent can be based anywhere, we can be the place of choice if we are committed to reducing income inequality (not just raising incomes), truly protecting the environment (instead of the popular ‘balancing act’ rhetoric) and continuing with the basics (quality infrastructure and public services) we already have.





Are we ready to step up to the challenge?

4 06 2011

It was encouraging to see the level of interest last week in the report ‘Improving the Transition’ produced by the Prime Minister’s chief science advisor Peter Gluckman last week.

The report challenged successive governments ad hoc approach to addressing serious issues for young people in our country. It was particularly critical about the lack of evidential base for government funded services, a lack of evaluation and monitoring and the failure to invest in the early years. Professor Gluckman also pointed out that solutions to serious problems are going to take many electoral cycles.

In 2001 the Ministry of Justice published a report that suggested early intervention was most effective but also least accurate in identifying where resources should be targeted. The report concluded that spending smaller amounts on more young parents and their children was ultimately a better investment than trying to address the expensive options available to reduce youth offending or locking up adults.

The last Labour-led governments put serious money to initiatives like Family Start focused on the families of pre-school children, support services for teenage parents and social workers in primary schools. The effectiveness of these initiatives seems to be mixed and the evaluations were rarely made public.

The current government has committed around $100million for new services for young offenders plus tens of millions more toward Whanau Ora and the Community Response Fund. The funding for youth offending was based on pre-election promises of boot camps that contradicted all the international and New Zealand literature suggesting those approaches either don’t have any significant effect or actually increase offending. Whanau Ora and the Community Response Fund are based on noble sentiments around devolving decision-making to the community level, though both are still too amorphous to determine at this stage whether they will contribute to the transformational changes necessary in our communities.

Massive cuts to youth health services, early childhood education and support services along with recently announced funding cuts and restructuring of family violence prevention services were not prefaced by any report on their effectiveness, rather election year political priorities seem to outweigh any evidential imperatives.

With the government using their level of borrowing to justify their inability to undertake any substantial new investments (other than more than ten billion on new Roads of National Significance), they should have a clearer commitment to evidence-based and cost-effective service provision.

I look forward to seeing the recommendations that the Office of the Prime Minister comes up with from Professor Gluckman’s report (which had 11 recommendations of its own). Hopefully the proposals are followed by an action plan to address not just woefully underfunded youth mental health services but the more systemic issues relating to the politicization of public policy development, local priority-setting and accountability and the overall quality of relationships between the range of stakeholders in social development.

The Gisborne Herald Editorial last week asked whether our country is prepared to step up to the challenges identified by Professor Gluckman. My response would be that I doubt the report will be enough to make much difference to the lack of courage we have seen to date. The most significant opportunity for alcohol law reform in a generation seems to have passed us by as the government adopted none of the most effective options promoted by the Law Commission and similarly the key proposals in a Law Commission report last month on the Review of Misuse of Drugs Act seemed to have no support from any of the political parties.

At a local level I’m encouraged by the increasing community commitment to positive child and youth development and in this we can hopefully lead the country.





Increasing Equality

24 03 2011

The Spirit Level has some exciting implications for the Gisborne District. No surprises that in our community wealth and health inequalities are more pronounced than most other places around New Zealand. Also not surprisingly, inequalities here are largely, though not exclusively, aligned with ethnicity (Europeans/Pākeha control nearly 93% of the national net worth but only comprise 83% of the population, while Māori make up over 10% but only own 4% of the wealth) and age (young people have much higher ratio of debt to assets than older people), and to a lesser extent gender.

While the factors contributing to this situation are largely historical and circumstantial, there are things that can be done today to create a more equal community if that was something we aspired to. The Spirit Level certainly provides strong evidence as to why reducing inequalities is an important goal but there is a fundamental change in values that needs to take place if equality is something we make a community goal for Gisborne.

Massey University published research last year that showed over the past 30 years New Zealanders have drifted away from our egalitarian roots and now more people than ever do not believe equality should be a goal for our society. Commentators have linked this shift with the rise of radical political ideology of free market economics that has dominated New Zealand government policy since the mid-1980s. So now we have a more unequal society where 10% of the population own more than half of the wealth, more half the population own less than 7% of wealth and a steady trend is that a decreasing proportion of people own their home. But more importantly, less people than ever think we should be aiming for a reduction in the disparities between the haves and the have nots. As Midnight Oil sang ‘the rich are getting richer, the poor get the picture’. Another trend down is that less and less of the value produced by the country is held by New Zealanders, and a increasing proportion of the population have a decreasing net value. The Treasury technocrats who have pushed what Professor Jane Kelsey dubbed ‘The New Zealand Experiment’ have been very successful in terms of shifting our thinking as a country.

While this ideology has been espoused by some outspoken local civic and business leaders for a generation, it is pleasing to see some of have moved on and a new, hopefully more enlightened set of leaders is emerging.

Tim Jackson’s book “Prosperity Without Growth” and Michael Shuman’s “Going Local” have been influencing my thinking on economic policy and his recommendations for local and national economies are closely aligned with the thesis of The Spirit Level authors.

I am very interested in looking at how Council policies on rating for example has been used over the past ten years in a way that may have the effect of shifting more of the rates burden onto those who can least afford it. I think we should also be looking carefully at how public policies can make it easier or harder for big box retailers owned by foreigners to setup here and effectively shut down our mainstreet’s family-owned businesses.

I think a fair and active democracy requires that we try to give everyone an opportunity to make positive contributions to the community, fairness doesn’t mean we have to treat everyone the same. If people live in different circumstances then treating them differently is justified. The level of opposition to the Voter Participation Project focused on neighbourhoods that have poor election turnout was a great case in point. Either opposers have a very base understanding of what it means to be fair or they were motivated by some irrational fear or bias against trying to encourage poor people to vote in an informed manner.

While The Spirit Level has had it’s detractors and critics (largely politically motivated some claim), the authors have responded resoundingly to questions raised and a global movement is developing aimed at raising public and political awareness about the benefits of reducing the gap between the wealthy and poorest citizens within a country and community. The Equality Trust established by the authors of The Spirit Level has a guide for local groups and I would be keen to hear from anyone interested in forming a Gisborne group to look more closely at the current situation on things like wage ratios in local businesses and implications for Council policy positions that do or not include increasing equality as a goal.

Wilkinson and Pickett, The Spirit Level authors, have clearly demonstrated through peer-reviewed empirical evidence that the more equal a society is, the happier, healthier and less stressed, better educated and less likely to be a victim of crime everyone is. I’m as keen as anyone else to get beyond the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality that has grown with the increasing gap between rich and poor, can we find others who want to explore these opportunities?





Profile & Priorities

14 09 2010

Te Poho-o-Rawiri, Waitangi Day, 2010

I am standing for Council because I want to encourage much more public participation in discussions and decisions about the future for our communities. Diversity around the council table is important so the district leadership truly reflects the people they serve and we all move ahead together.

I moved to Gisborne with my wife Natasha Koia in 1998 to provide care for her elderly grandparents. We still live with her grandmother and now have our own family with two young children.

I have a degree in communication design, a post-graduate teaching qualification and have worked as a graphic designer, teacher, researcher and community organiser. My research and project management business was established in 2004 with local, national and international clients including the Ministry of Social Development, Ministry of Education and The World Bank. I currently hold governance roles with the Board of Trustees for Waikirikiri School and Presbyterian Support East Coast, and I served three years on the board of the NZ Council for International Development.

More information about my priorities, track record and a list of respected locals who endorse my election are available at: http://www.manu.org.nz

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Question 1. Rates

Our region currently has huge infrastructure, transport and energy costs, low incomes and limited employment options. I would support Council appointment of a skilled advocate to influence central government so that any impact of national regulations are fully understood and compensated for by central government not ratepayers.

GDC needs to get much smarter at securing external resourcing for major projects. We need much more sophisticated negotiation skills to make the case for private and public investment in local infrastructure.

We should establish a ‘50,000 Taskforce’ with the goal of reaching this population by 2020. Design and implement an aggressive national and international marketing campaign to attract world class talent to relocate to the region bringing expertise and increased earnings.

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Question 2. Infrastructure

Cycling and walking needs to be made much easier and safer than it is at present.

We need to urgently establish alternatives to more logging trucks in the city. We need the companies benefitting to pay for the constant road upgrades required.

The rail needs a rescue plan in place by April – based on a robust study of the options not rushed reports.

We need ultra-fast free broadband to every home by 2012.

We need a bylaw requiring all rental homes to pass a Warrant of Fitness to reduce the negative health, education, financial and social outcomes from substandard housing.

The community needs to think about and decide how we best support local businesses and how much big box retail we want in our town. We should take a different development path to places like Tauranga.

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Question 3. Council involvement with economic and community development

The sobering social and economic issues in our region are not just statistics – they have faces and names as friends, family and neighbours.

Council doesn’t need to lead economic development but needs to ensure it is smart and takes into account potential impacts on social, environmental and cultural wellbeing. Similarly council doesn’t need to lead community development but needs to work with residents and other stakeholders to ensure communities lead their own development.

Local authorities should have a key role in coordinating central government funding coming into our region for social and economic development to make sure it is lined up with local priorities. I will encourage council support for residents groups at neighbourhood and village level to determine local priorities and development plans.

Question 4. Council provision of facilities and events for young people

Council doesn’t need to provide these directly, but should work with young people, community organisations and businesses to develop more opportunities for young people. This could include computer clubhouses, homework centres, all ages music venues, business incubators, community gardens, and sports and recreation facilities.

Young people are full citizens and Council should provide a non-voting seat for the Tairawhiti Youth Council around the Council table and on all committees.

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Question 5. Biggest environmental problems

Significant challenges facing the district include farm and beach erosion, waterway sedimentation, agro-chemical pollution, minerals exploration, native habitat destruction, increased risk from extreme weather and our dependence on oil-based energy.

However one of the most important issues is the need to secure a collective commitment to adjust our lifestyles to ensure future generations are also able to enjoy the abundance we have been blessed with.

Council should lead by example – using more solar energy, providing loans paid off by rates for solar water heating, switching to hybrid vehicles, using bicycles around the CBD and planting vegetables in public gardens.

Council should facilitate more environmental education and community action and establish a regional Environmental Forum with statutory agencies, businesses and non-government organisations to identify, plan and monitor action to address priority environmental issues.

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Alternative Education announcement welcomed

1 09 2010

Local providers of Alternative Education for students who have been excluded from mainstream education are welcoming an announcement from Pita Sharples, the Associate Minister of Education, of a funding increase for the sector.

“The 8.4% increase works out to a lot less than the rate of inflation since the last funding increase in 2000 but it is a start and we hope the government is committed to at least pegging future funding to inflation” said Manu Caddie, a Trustee for Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti that runs Ka Timata, a programme for up to nine boys aged 13-16 years.

“We have been lobbying government for many years on this issue – these are the forgotten kids who miss out on the resources of mainstream education once. Ironically they are the young people who have the highest needs and get the least support.”

Recent national studies have shown that students in Alternative Education are more likely to be Maori from low income neighbourhoods and have much higher rates of health problems, learning deficits and involvement with crime than their peers who stay in mainstream schools.

Ka Timata records from 2007-2009 show that 75% of the 20 students had involvement with Child, Youth & Family, 85% had come to the attention of Police, 95% had numeracy and literacy levels well below their peers, 60% had little connection to their marae before coming to Ka Timata, 90% had five or less positive adult influences and nearly all had a history of violence and alcohol and/or drug abuse.

After leaving Ka Timata one third of the students went into employment, half went on to further training, 10% left town and 10% went to unknown destinations.

“We are also very pleased to see the requirement for a qualified teacher to work with Alternative Education students, though we are not sure how we are going to pay them what they would otherwise get in mainstream schools given our resourcing is still so low compared to what schools have to work with” said Mr Caddie who was himself a teacher in Alternative Education and has been involved at a national level in lobbying for increased resourcing for AE from four different Ministers of Education.

Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti is a member of Te Ora Hou Aotearoa, a national network of faith-based Maori youth and community development organisations that emerged in the 1970s and have provided residential homes for at-risk youth, schools for teenage parents, alternative education programmes, community development projects, international indigenous youth exchanges and community youth clubs in centres around the country.





Government misses the mark on alcohol law reforms

24 08 2010

A local youth advocate is disappointed with government plans to focus on youth access to alcohol and says unless the Government implement the recommendations of the Law Commission in total there will be no change in the statistics around alcohol and the damage excess use causes.

“It is no use scapegoating young people”, says Manu Caddie, Trustee for Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti Trust that works with young people who have problems with alcohol and drugs. Mr Caddie contributed to Gisborne District Council’s submission on alcohol law reform last year and participated in a national meeting between Maori community leaders and the Law Commission to discuss the options they were considering putting to government.

“When we met with the Law Commission to discuss their ideas we told Sir Geoffrey Palmer that young people need to stop drinking as heavily as they do, but merely targeting laws against them will not work” said Mr Caddie, the government obviously haven’t taken heed of this message that was passed on by the Law Commission and as a result our binge-drinking culture will no doubt continue.”

Mr Caddie says Public Health guidelines known as the Ottowa Charter, have been implemented internationally for the last 25 years and show that unless the whole community is targeted very little change occurs in behaviour. Getting drunk and smoking cigarettes are seen as a hallmark of adult behaviour.

“Adults are smoking less because of our excellent public health laws and education in this area. If we want young people to decrease their alcohol use then adults have to do the same. Children and young people learn from the examples given to them by adults.”

The Law Commission recommended that if the government is to control the damage caused by excess alcohol drinking then they need to make it less available by curtailing when and where it is sold, and by increasing the price.

“If we are going to reduce the demand for alcohol then we must curtail its promotion through marketing and advertising and provide much more effective education programmes and access to treatment services for those who are having problems with the amount they drink and can no longer control it.”

92% of people with alcohol problems are aged over 20 years but the reform package focuses on people under the age of 20. “Some of the measures are good and we need to address youth attitudes to alcohol but the reforms miss the bulk of Law Commission calls for increasing excise tax, limiting advertising and lowering the blood alcohol levels for driving which would clearly have made the biggest difference.

We hear much about “whole of Government” approaches. Let’s take a “whole of Community” approach to the binge drinking culture we have developed in Gisborne today, and make our community a healthier and happier place to live.

ENDS





A goal is not a strategy

21 08 2010

A report released this week from independent think tank The New Zealand Institute should be compulsory reading for all local leaders. ‘A goal is not a strategy’ concludes that New Zealand needs to get more businesses to establish themselves overseas, ensure we have a high skilled, well supported workforce and put more focus on the science and technology of industries like farming, forestry and fishing.

The report concludes that lifting labour productivity depends on improving things like entrepreneurship, innovation, skills, investment and natural resources.

The report suggests New Zealand’s most important export sectors – tourism, agriculture, and manufacturing – have lower than average productivity so simply growing these activities without also substantially lifting productivity will not lift GDP per capita.

There are many opportunities in the areas Gisborne excels at, such as agriculture, horticulture and tourism. But information, communications and technology (ICT) and niche manufacturing, along with value-added goods and services based on primary production, are where we need to invest most aggressively.

Ngati Porou schools with support from the Ministry of Education have invested millions in ICT over the past ten years, Lytton High School has been producing world class computing graduates and some of our most successful local entrepreneurs found success through internationalising their business.

I was at the Federated Farmers presentation to the Community Development Committee of Gisborne District Council last week and have some sympathy for their frustrations about the high value of our currency. As the son of a farming family, in the early 1980s I saw similar stress on farming families from record droughts and 24% interest rates.

The reality is that unless our primary production sectors make a quantum shift from high volume, low value exports into new knowledge and technology based goods and services our region will be left behind. Local leaders need to get much better at building the case for attracting some of the billions available for research and scientific investment in our primary industries. The world is hungry and looking for more sustainable production of both food and construction materials. While we cannot feed and house the planet, we can provide new technology and productivity skills to other countries. Organics, biofuels, renewable energy are all industries with massive growth potential this century.

So, where is the strategy for retaining and attracting talent to our district? How can we support local businesses to internationalise their expertise? What are we doing about the social issues that impact on our children and their ability to reach their full potential? What is the Plan B once transport costs make our low value exports even less competitive? Who is doing the thinking and influencing to help our region step up as a model for the rest of the country?

The proposed Economic Development Agency has great potential to lead some of this work provided that it avoids being captured by special interest groups; appreciates the interdependent relationship between social, economic and environmental wellbeing; and encourages the development of national educational leadership from local schools.

We live in a region that has everything going for it – a wealth of natural resources, rich cultural heritage, world class innovators, a clean environment and caring community. We don’t need to follow the path of places like Tauranga that might have gained the world but in the process lost its soul.

Our regional development strategy has to be smart and sustainable in a way that enhances our communities, economic security and natural environment.





Universal Access for Gisborne?

1 08 2010

A recent survey of households in Kaiti found that 90% have a mobile phone and more than one in three have broadband internet in the home. Gisborne residents are obviously committed to using new technology to help with communication, education and involvement in society.

Given the isolation of our region relative to the big cities and overseas markets, access to high speed internet access and affordable information technology should be the centre-piece of any plan for a prosperous region.

High-speed wireless internet access for all residents is becoming a top priority for local authorities around the world.  Whanganui District Council has just subsidised free wireless to two low income neighbourhoods in their town and in Canada advertising is being used to sponsor wireless access to poor neighbourhoods. Given the high access rates charged by the telecommunications companies in New Zealand, electronic infrastructure is quickly being recognised as a public good that requires democratic control rather than just private owners.

Gisborne District councilors wouldn’t even allow staff to setup a Facebook page for the Annual Plan this year. Thankfully Corporate Affairs Manager Douglas Burt has championed Council involvement in broadband initiatives and projects like Computers in Homes and getting broadband to all our rural communities.

Bristol City Council over the past twelve months has been using Participatory Budgeting, including online ways for citizens to set the city spending. The council put aside funds for three city wards to allocate spending through an online discussion.

To carry out the project, the council used Open Source (free) software which enables residents to suggest ideas for what the money should be spent on, and allows other citizens to vote for the ideas they support. While the final decision on spending can’t legally rest with ‘the internet’, the council committed to stick by the decisions made by participants, so long as they are legal.

Half way through the pilot project results are showing that 130 people had registered on the site, a participation rate that is much larger than the numbers who usually turn up to public consultation meetings.

The age of participants has moved down about twenty years in age compared with attendees at traditional public meetings, showing 40% of participants are under the age of 40.

The site asked people who responded to state their location, and this has shown that most respondents come from the three wards in which the funding will be spent. So people are engaging in their local area, but others are having their say too, just as intended, especially given one of the wards covers the city centre, used by pretty much all residents from time to time.

Gisborne District Council will be interested to know that a sizable proportion of the ideas submitted in Bristol turned out not to need funding at all, and could be undertaken right away. These ranged from some ideas actually being issues that could be passed on directly to council officers for action, to users being able to help each other. In one instance, a user suggested it would be good to fund having bus timetables on your mobile phone, and another replied saying that they’d already worked out how to do it, and gave instructions on how to do so!

The council has thus benefitted from another channel for receiving customer feedback as well as encouraging the wisdom of crowds, in addition to the benefits hoped for by the project itself.

Universal access to high speed broadband is fundamental to transforming the economic performance of Gisborne but a key question is whether or not prospective councilors and local voters consider this infrastructure essential for the future of our region.





Kaiti Neighbourhood Meeting to Address Tagging

14 06 2010

A neighbourhood meeting to address tagging in Kaiti this week resulted in the development of a community action plan involving much more than painting out tagging.

The meeting attracted more than 20 residents including a number of young people. Meeting organiser Manu Caddie said he was very pleased with the turnout with some very practical ideas being put forward to tackle the causes of tagging.

A presentations from Gisborne District Council town planner Duncan Rothwell provided residents with a range of strategies to make tagging less likely. Using wire fencing instead of planks avoids providing a flat surface which is attractive to taggers.

“A community paint out day is one approach but addressing the issues that create taggers seems like the most sensible strategy to prevent tagging” said Mr Caddie.

The meeting heard from Police Sergeant Greg Lexmond that while tagging was at the lower end of the offending continuum, it is usually done by people under the age of 20 and still important for Police to respond to.

Mr Caddie presented findings from international research on what families can do to prevent young people getting into trouble with the law. Mr Caddie said the four most important things parents and caregivers can do are: spend quality time doing things that the children enjoy; set reasonable boundaries and know where they are and who they are with; encourage participation in positive activities such as sport and kapahaka; and do everything possible to keep them in school.

Presentations by Te Runanga o Ngati Porou staff informed the meeting about a mentoring programme they are working on in Kaiti schools. Ngarimu Simpkins, a Community Development Officer for the Gisborne District Council, presented an idea he is working that will involve taggers in a community art project.

Mr Caddie said Ka Pai Kaiti will continue to work with local organisations, schools and residents to implement the plan coming out of the meeting.

Ideas from meeting participants that will inform the community action plan included:

  1. Working with schools to identify young people who tag their bags and books with opportunities for these young people to be connected into programmes that address identity and belonging issues and expose students to the consequences of tagging.
  2. Utilising local artists and designers including Toihoukura students and staff to assist with mural painting in high risk spots and mentoring young people caught tagging.
  3. Improving Police response to tagging reports and encouraging judges to include educational and identity development opportunities within sentences.
  4. Using positive Maori mentors and educational experiences to ensure that all young Maori in Gisborne have a positive sense of what it means to be Maori instead of the negative self-image many whanau have inherited from society.
  5. Advertising and social marketing targeting young people that helps them understand the cost and impact tagging can have on households and neighbourhoods.
  6. ‘Dream Expo’ hosted by local schools that encourage primary aged children to realise their potential.
  7. Encouraging the establishment of Neighbourhood Watch Groups in areas that are often tagged.
  8. Publicising the profile of the ‘average tagger’ – how they started, what motivates them, what unmet needs they have and how best to steer them away from tagging.
  9. Using schools as significant public assets within communities experiencing high levels of deprivation that can be the base for a range of support services to family and provide moral reasoning (skills to decide what is right and wrong) training for children and young people.
  10. Encourage churches, sports clubs, marae and service clubs to contribute to a community action plan.





Love Your Library

10 03 2010

Congratulations to Pene Walsh and her staff at the public library. Over the past year the number of library visitors has grown 27%. This increase has brought with it a range of challenges, not least of which has been the disruptive and offensive behaviour of some library users, many of them young males.

While Councillor Alan Davidson recently suggested a strategy of exclusion and shame by ordering trespass notices and posting pictures of the offenders in public places, the staff have taken a more constructive approach. Library staff – with the support of the City Watch team – have been committed to building positive and mutually respectful relationships with the young people. As a result, most of these young people have improved their behaviour around the library, accepted the right of other library visitors to enjoy civic spaces without being disturbed and no doubt have also developed a greater sense of belonging to their community.

I was also impressed that Pene sent a couple of staff members to a youth worker training workshop we organised last year. One of the key messages from the day was that every young person in their transition to adulthood needs to experience (a) a sense of belonging, (b) a sense that they are good at something, (c) a sense of taking responsibility for themselves, and (d) a sense of making a positive contribution to their community. It is clear that library staff understand it takes a whole community to raise healthy young people and have been able to find ways to support positive youth development within the public service responsibilities they have at the library.

If there were awards for positive youth development in Gisborne (or even nationally), our library staff and the City Watch team should be first in line.

We urgently need to find the funds, within or outside of Council, to extend the space of our library so it can better cater for the growing number of visitors and properly house the great resources it has available for all of us. While we’re at it, the connection of the library to an outdoors civic space in the CBD seems commonsense.








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