Neighbourly-ness

26 09 2014

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Recently I started using a social networking site called Neighbourly.

I am encouraging others to try it, as I’ve been an advocate for using new technologies to help build community cohesion, improve public participation in planning, share learning and improve communication.

Place-based online networks like Neighbourly, Nextdoor and MeetTheNeighbours have potential as tools for communicating useful information and knowledge between local residents. Eventually Neighbourly could be a valuable platform for local government and residents associations to engage with people in our area. There are limitations in our community because we have lower internet than most of the country – indeed we have lower rates of access than some developing countries!

We’ve seen it used to help solve crime and get stolen property returned. It’s also being used to promote neighbourhood events that bring people out to meet face to face. We have been trying to build trust and care between residents in our neighbourhood as a way to address wicked social issues like child neglect and violence – we are seeing neighbours getting to know each other better and Neighbourly can only help with these bigger processes of community building.

Platforms like Neighbourly will enable organisations to engage with the people they are supposed to serve in new ways. We are seeing the rise of services like online youth work and counseling – as it can be easier for some people to engage online than in person. As Neighbourly develops I expect it will increase the suite of tools available for organisations to target particular groups within a larger population with specific messages and in conversations about issues of mutual interest. Geo-tagging and place-based online platforms will be increasingly important for things like civil defence, e-democracy, tourism, historical archiving and cultural revitalization.

I’ve been organising in my neighbourhood for 15 years and worked for four years as an elected representative for the area so using social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Neighbourly seemed like a natural progression to take a lead in online organising as well. Having said that, it’s been great to see a number of local people with no significant public profile or community organising experience take a lead on Neighbourly and in other social media.

Developing a national network on people committed to engaging with their communities is a vision many of us community organisers and development workers have had for years. Neighbourly has the opportunity to provide a powerful platform for mobilising large parts of the population on specific campaigns and supporting critical issues we may be interested in – both in public policy and in specific communities.

There are obvious opportunities for creating learning circles within the Neighbourly network to share best practice and well-established principles of good community development.

Social media is demonstrating how powerful it can be as a tool for social change around the world. While we may not be organising a revolution (just yet), we can use these platforms to share stories, raise awareness, mobilise residents for collective action, collect valuable feedback and information on local priorities, attitudes and behaviours that can provide better evidence for where scarce resources should best be allocated.

I think the growing digital divide is one of the most critical issues that the champions of online community building initiatives and public policy makers need to wrestle with. If we don’t address the elephant in the room of affordable internet access and online skills we will exacerbate already staggering levels of inequality our country is increasingly being shamed for on the global stage.

There are also privacy issues that need to be addressed. Recent revelations that the NSA and its partners have access to all online communication will make many organisations and individuals more nervous about how much data they are prepared to share online about themselves, their community and others.





Scoring own goal can mean you’re trying to change the rules – or The Game

22 09 2014

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Kia ora Nandor, thanks for this great post: ‘Not Voting is An Own Goal‘.

I think you make some valid points though I disagree with you on a couple of others.

For the first time, I didn’t vote this election – it was mostly for personal reasons but it got me thinking about the more public/political reasons for choosing not to vote:

  • Ignorance about the political system, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, etc. is one reason some people do not vote. They haven’t made an effort to find out, or have thought it was not something they are allowed to do because it’s just not a system or society they feel a part of in any meaningful way. (Read this excellent reflection on these issues)
  • Others just ‘can’t be bothered’, they know they probably should but can’t get motivated enough to spend 15 minutes of their time going into a polling booth. That lack of motivation has a variety of contributing factors to it which may include being new to the place or just having other more pressing personal priorities, which may include emotional or physical needs.
  • Others choose not to vote because they honestly don’t know which person or party they would want to give their vote to – they feel ill informed and unwilling to commit one way or another because they haven’t got enough information.
    Another group don’t want to vote because they don’t have confidence in any party or politician – as a society politicians are way down the bottom of professions we trust. They have heard all the promises, probably participated in elections previously and maybe been a member of a political party but have been so disappointed by the inability of any party to live up to the expectations they held that they currently can no longer bring themselves to support any party or candidate.
  • I’m not sure if it’s a different group, a subset of the last one or just the same people with a different expression for their lack of confidence, but there are people who have given up on the whole process, the ones you suggest don’t want to legitimise a rotten system and think that voting ‘just encourages the politicians’. You suggest that this decision to not vote ‘will have absolutely no impact at all’ – but I’m not so sure.

For a starter, when nearly a million eligible voters don’t exercise the right, it provokes these kinds of discussions and encourages more deliberation on the validity of the system, the legitimacy and effectiveness of representative democracy, the possibility of more effective and potentially disastrous alternatives, the level of social capital and social infrastructure in our society that means such a large proportion of the population are disenfranchised (or not) and allowing others to determine (or not) the future for the most vulnerable in our communities, etc.

Choosing not to vote, is still a vote. It may have made John Key more likely to win, but then a Labour-led alternative is not any more attractive to many of us. Concessions on RMA and welfare reform, indigenous rights, mechanisms to address inequality, state asset sales and ties to the US economy and global military industrial complex would continue to frustrate many of us who like to think we vote with a little less self-interest than the majority of our fellow citizens. Choosing not to vote is a message to say, the system is broken (no where near as much as some others) and we want to put energy into improving or replacing it.

I think there is a place for a Vote of No Confidence option on the ballot, a space for those who don’t think we should settle for the current form of government modelled on (and still linked to) the Westminster system imposed by European settlers on these islands.

There are plenty of improvements we can make to the system (I listed some toward the end of this post), and we can help create those changes with or without central government support. There are examples of this happening all the time using existing institutions and creating new processes and contexts for reducing the influence of the dominant paradigm on our families and communities.

Likewise we can build authentic alternatives for self-governance, most likely without public support and eventually these will create conflict with the dominant system if they refuse to contribute to its maintenance and self-legitimising mechanisms for survival. This is a much more costly option and is unlikely to succeed, but if it’s all too hard then we continue to meddle and tinker with a massive infrastructure that is controlled by very powerful forces that refuse to give up power while we’re running out of time to make the changes the world needs to have any chance of a decent future.
I like your point that voting doesn’t actually take much effort and provided it’s value and potential is seen for little effort and little impact it has, it’s not really so demanding that we should abstain for any good reason.

I’ll probably vote again in the future, but by not doing so this time, I’m choosing not to abdicate anything to the government and voting for myself to take more responsibility for creating the community, country and planet I want my kids to be able to contribute to.





Local Māori Governance – A Briefing Note for Community Governance Workshop for Tairāwhiti

8 09 2014

Whakawhitirā church in the Waiapu valley (cf. 1830)

Whakawhitirā church in the Waiapu valley (cf. 1830)

I’m helping organise a workshop on Community Governance, one of the presenters is from Portland, Oregon and we are wanting to give him some background on the local context, particularly Māori in governance roles. This is my (brief) briefing note –  feedback welcome if I’ve omitted or misrepresented anything significant. 

- – -

POPULATION, GEOGRAPHY & ECONOMY

Name & Population

Tairāwhiti (“The Coast Where the Sun Shines on the Water”) or Gisborne (the name of a Colonial Secretary for the British Empire who never visited the place) is a region on the East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The population of approximately 45,000 residents includes about 33,000 in the city of Gisborne and the remainder in rural villages and on farms. Most of the settlements are close to the coastline. The population has been declining slightly for a decade or so but the birth rate and youth population is generally higher than the national average.

Ethnic Groups

The ethnic identity of residents is fairly evenly split between Māori and Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent) with a small proportion of Pacific Islanders (mostly Tongan & Fijian Indian), Asian (Indian & Chinese) and others.

Geography

The geographic isolation of the region makes travel to other cities and metropolitan areas a long haul by road and travel within the region can also be challenging as the terrain is often steep and prone to land slips.

Economy

The main industries in the region are based on the primary sector including farming, forestry, horticulture, viticulture and fishing. 2.2m tonnes of raw logs were exported from the port last year, and this is expected to continue growing. The increase in farm land converted to forestry has contributed to the population decline in rural communities over the last 30 years.

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MĀORI COMMUNITIES

Settlement & Tribal Groups

The original inhabitants of the area are thought to have established settlements in the region between 1200 and 1400 CE. Their descendants continue to reside in the region which is home to about a dozen traditional iwi (tribes) that have been amalgamated into four main tribes: Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri.

Colonisation

During the early 1800s British settlers signed a Treaty with Māori leaders in an attempt to legitimise their occupation of the islands, but almost immediately after the Treaty was signed, settler political and commercial interests started passing laws and taking action to grab as much Māori land as possible. This resulted in a series of wars around the country between British troops and tribes that resisted the invasion and alienation of their territories. Some tribes chose to side with the British forces in a continuation of traditional inter-tribal conflict. Tribes that sided with the Crown managed to retain more of their land than those who resisted and ultimately had vast areas confiscated to be held by the Crown or sold to settlers.

In Tairāwhiti there are two main tribal areas, the tribes of Turanganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne city and to the west) lost more than a million hectares to confiscation. Ngāti Porou (an area covering 400,000 hectares north of the city and now the second largest iwi population in the country) sided with the Crown and kept the majority of their land under tribal control.

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MĀORI GOVERNANCE

Tribal Governance

Most members of Tairāwhiti iwi live away from the area (e.g. Ngāti Porou have over 70,000 members but only 12,000 residing within its tribal boundaries).

The late 1980s followed 20 years of activism to recognise Māori political rights and two acts of Parliament established two tribal governance authorities, one for Ngāti Porou and one for the collective of Turanganui-a-Kiwa iwi.

Post-Settlement

In the last five years all but one of the iwi have settled claims for historic breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi (signed in 1840), the last tribe is expected to settle with the Crown later this year. Settlements include a formal apology from the Crown for a list of Treaty breaches, the return of some lands, cash compensation (in Tairāwhiti these have been between $20-200m) and the establishment of new governance relationships.

Local Government

In the case of Turanga iwi, this will include a standing committee of Gisborne District Council made up for six councillors and six iwi representatives. For Ngāti Porou it includes new protocols with various central government agencies that must consult with the iwi, and provide a first right of refusal when disposing of Crown properties, etc.

The NZ Local Government Act provides for local authorities to establish Māori wards within the Council representation system. Very few have ever taken up this option. Based on the regulatory criteria, in Tairāwhiti it would mean there could be up to five Māori seats on the Council that currently has 13 seats. Gisborne District Council has continually voted against this option arguing that it would be discriminatory or that the district would suffer as remaining general wards would be enlarged.

Pre-European Community Governance

In February 1862 the total Pākehā population on the East Coast (excluding the area now known as Gisborne City and the Poverty Bay Flats) was estimated to be 20, while that of Maori was around 5,000. A report written in 2009 as part of the Waitangi Tribunal investigation into historic breaches of the Treaty refers to a resident magistrate’s recollections of Māori community governance structure that existed before the settler government imposed new structures:

…Every day affairs on the coast at this time were said to be arranged by runanga. [Resident Magistrate] Baker reported that “Almost every village has its own, in which everything, from far country news to domestic life, is freely discussed.”

Based at Rangitukia, Baker defined existing runanga as a community, consisting of any number of persons exceeding one family:
“Thus, within a few hundred yards of my present residence, there is a collection of some three or four huts, the inhabitants of which style themselves “Te Runanga o Pahairomiromi;” the latter being the name of the village. These, and many other similar Runangas, assume all the powers and privileges of the largest Runanga (as at present constituted), and claim to be independent… of any control by the general Runanga, if such a term may be applied to the voice of the mass of the people.”

So there is a strong tradition of community governance and in the ‘post-settlement environment’ we are seeing a burgeoning of sub-tribal groups being re-established as hapū trusts with a focus on the social, economic, cultural and environmental revitalisation and wellbeing of their tribal area.

Land Trusts & Incorporations

Māori land in the 19th Century was ‘cut up’ into ‘land blocks’ that were assigned through the Native Land Court to 10-20 ‘owners’ who could convince the courts that they were descendants of traditional owners for particular blocks. This made it easier for Pākehā settlers to purchase land (often Māori had massive debts as a result of surveying costs associated with Court claims that meant they had to sell much of their land).

In the 20th Century, a leading politician from Ngāti Porou, Apirana Ngata, encouraged Māori landowners to amalgamate – under incorporations – their titles into collectively owned land blocks that had been increasingly divided over generations through succession to children. Most of these land blocks have survived and are governed by Trustees elected from all the individuals who have shares in the block and subsequently recognised by the Māori Land Court.

As successive generations increase the number of landowners in each block, the governance issues become more complex and the legislation pertaining to Māori land is currently under review in an effort to make it easier for land block owners to make decisions regarding the management of land so that efficiencies and productivity can be improved. Land blocks are usually managed as a farm, often under lease to a farmer or company utilising a number of blocks in an area – many have also planted exotic pine forests in partnership with overseas owners of the trees which typically take about 25 years to mature for harvest.

Marae

The ‘last bastion’ of Māori culture is the pā or marae, the traditional compound where a whānau (extended family) and members of the hapū (collective of whānau) would live and in more recent times, meet just for community events and special occasions. Marae reservations are usually recognised formally through a gazetted notice and Trustees appointed to govern the marae. Trustees may or may not form the marae committee, that manages the day to day affairs like bookings, maintenance and repairs, finances, etc.

Ngāti Porou has over 50 recognised marae, while some of the smaller Turanga iwi have six marae. Marae receive usually receive some income from their iwi, some from philanthropic grants and occasionally a government contract for a service such as supported employment for long-term unemployed, etc. Marae also receive income for events from participants and some have whānau members who donate regularly.

Schools

Schools have Boards of Trustees and many Māori are on these governance bodies responsible for overseeing curriculum, finances, strategic direction, student achievement, etc.

Other Entities

Māori participate in a range of mainstream and Māori entities including churches, sports clubs, community organisations that all require local, regional and national governance.





Leaving Council

10 04 2014

VOTE

City ward councillor Manu Caddie has resigned from Gisborne District Council.

Mr Caddie said he arrived at the decision after some significant soul searching following a recent family trip to Asia and discussion with family and close friends.

“Recently I have taken time to reflect on my priorities and I need to make some changes. I should have made this decision before the last election and I am sorry for the inconvenience and extra cost that my resignation will mean for the Council and ratepayers.”

Mr Caddie said it has been a privilege to serve the Gisborne community as a District Councillor since 2010.

“Being on Council has been a highlight of my working life. The opportunity to help shape the future of our district is a serious responsibility and requires people who have the time and energy to devote to the task. Unfortunately I am unable to do this at present.”

Mr Caddie will continue involvement with a small number of community initiatives and a new organisation.

Mr Caddie’s resignation will mean a by-election must be held by early July for a new city ward councillor.

ENDS





Census surprises

4 12 2013

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The Census results provide a useful set of information for anyone who cares about the future of our region.

With one in three locals now aged under 20 and half the population under 40, we need to ensure the voices of young citizens are heard clearly and that we provide decent support to help them grow as contributing members of our community. I would also be keen to hear from the three local teenagers who said they earn over $100,000 per year!

Ethnic and cultural identity figures are very interesting. The proportion of the population identifying as Māori remains about the same at 49 percent (likely to be a bit higher in reality). Many of us Pākehā seem to have some ambivalence and lack of confidence about our cultural identity. The number of local ‘European’ residents has jumped sharply, while those claiming ‘New Zealander’ as their ethnicity has dropped by over 3,000. Pacific peoples have increased by about 15 percent and other ethnic groups, including Asian, have all increased more modestly. While we may be one of least ethnically diverse regions, few others have Asian and African political leaders!

Though we do have 804 people – including the three teenagers – earning over $100,000, we have comparatively low income levels and the lowest home ownership rates in the country. We have also had a significant increase in the proportion of the population that hold a university degree. A population with higher levels of education should result in positive changes over time to income levels, home ownership and many other benefits. The key ingredient in that equation is a good match between education and employment opportunities. There is some good work being done in this space and a closer relationship between schools, employers and training providers will be critical.

With the lowest access to the internet at home, there is a great case for more public access options to information and communication technologies. The proposed neighbourhood computer hubs and better online options at schools, marae and the public library service all need significant support and investment to bridge the digital divide and enable new technology-based industries and employment opportunities to evolve quickly.

The Gisborne/Tairāwhiti region has the highest proportion of Māori language speakers in the country, with one in six of us being able to converse in Te Reo. I agree with the Chief Statistician who has called our region ‘the home of Te Reo’ – an asset we can use not only in tourism but also as a selling point for the tens of thousands of people – Māori and non-Māori – who want their children to grow up bi-lingual and in an environment where Māori traditions and values are maintained and appreciated.

All in all, I’d say the numbers suggest we are a pretty fascinating mix of awesomeness with plenty of room for improvement, but also much to be proud of.





The Weight of Risk and the Risk of Waiting

15 10 2013

HDC Oil_Page_06

A paper I presented at the Oil & Gas Symposium, Hastings District Council, 11 October 2013.

DOWNLOADS:





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.

- – - 

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.

- – -

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.








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