Billboard Liberation

24 09 2013

Got a message early this morning that someone overnight had turned me into the worst human in history on a couple of billboard sites…

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Figure I must be doing something right if I’m accused of being both a communist and a fascist.

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The new hairdo got a makeover more attuned to our East Coast love affair with Uncle Bob…

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“Out of darkness must come light.” – Bob Marley

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“Live for yourself and you will live in vain. Live for others and you will live again.” – Bob Marley

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“The greatness of a man is not how much wealth he acquires, but in his integrity and his ability to affect those around him positively.” – Bob Marley

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I really like these ones… I hope they keep going with the ones that aren’t done yet.

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Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council Q+A

21 09 2013
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Photo: Mel Tahata, opening of To Be Pacific exhibition, Tairāwhiti Museum, 20 September 2013

Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council asked local body candidates five questions. They seem to have liked my responses!

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1.What is your vision for Gisborne in terms of cultural diversity?
That all Gisborne people can feel proud of their unique cultural heritage and honoured for the diversity they bring to our community. Gisborne could show other regions how to support the exchange and sharing of diverse cultural backgrounds in a way that enriches our town.

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2. The Ten Year Plan says GDC will support the development of cultural groups in the district, what kind of support do you think GDC should provide to the Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council?

As part of GDC cultural responsiveness it could utilise the TMC to be a liaison network with community. GDC would then benefit from investing in the Council by providing administration support and resources. The Council could discuss further with GDC how it might like to have input into Council discussions.

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3. What regular interaction do you have with groups of people from cultural backgrounds different to your own?

I have worked on aid and development programmes in Asia, Africa and the South Pacific but most of my work has been here in Gisborne and mostly within the Māori community. While I have Tongan whakapapa, my upbringing was pretty middle-class Pākehā – though I did spend a lot of time at marae, in hui and kapahaka as a child. Marrying a woman from Ngāti Porou and coming to live here has meant I have a direct family connection to mana whenua and have immersed myself in the culture of Māori communities both in Gisborne and on the Coast where we are intimately involved with a whānau marae. My wife and I have only ever spoken Te Reo Māori to our children and we’re committed to them being educated and socialised in Te Reo as well as the exposure they have everywhere to English. So we understand something of the struggle people from minority linguistic, religious and ethnic communities have to endure in this Anglo-Saxon dominated society.

I have been a founding member of the Tairāwhiti Inter-Faith Network and more recently the Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council – both are small but important networks that encourage people from diverse backgrounds to come together for the common good.

I’m regularly invited to Tongan and Pacific Island community events and recently participated in discussions around the establishment of a local consortium of Pasifika peoples focused on Whānau Ora initiatives for Tairāwhiti. I have supported migrants with immigration issues and negotiated on their behalf with immigration officials and lawyers. I have helped organise multicultural community events that bring people from diverse cultural backgrounds together in our neighbourhoods.

  - – -

4. What, if any, common challenges are you aware of for local residents from ethnic minority groups?
Negative stereotypes are still around. Such unfair stereotyping of any group can detract from the community as a whole being able to draw from the energy and contributions a group can make. There are still some groups over-represented in crime and educational failure and under-represented in business leadership and educational success. Initiatives like the Tongan Homework Support Programme utilising local volunteers and working with the students while the parents learn English at EIT is an exciting community-based response to do something about this situation. Some particularly new to New Zealand arrivals can often feel isolated so strengthening community connections for those families is important. Also there needs to be support for ethnic minority groups to be able to feel that they have a home in our city and can adapt in ways that are useful to them, while also maintaining their own culture.

  - – -

5. What are the biggest opportunities you see for attracting new immigrants and refugees to Gisborne?

As a city if we genuinely aspire towards sustainable solutions to the challenges that ethnic minorities face, this may attract their talents to our region.

There are opportunities to ask the Government to consider resettling some refugees here as they settled Burmese refugees in Nelson ten years ago. There are also a number of local businesses that rely on migrant workers – not only in low-skilled horticultural work but high tech positions like computer programming and materials technology. I met a PhD from Bangladesh who was working at Pultron and subsequently head-hunted by a company in Melbourne – he had some awesome ideas about developing composite materials from flax fibre here.

If Gisborne can show that it celebrates diversity and wants to involve ethnic groups in meaningful discussions on relevant issues – this would enhance the decision making process of GDC.

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Other responses: http://tairawhitimulticulturalcouncil.blogspot.co.nz/





My Views on a Multicultural Tairāwhiti

9 09 2013
Meeting with youth in a Nepalese village in 2007 with two young people I took over to share the experience.

Meeting with youth in a Nepalese village in 2007.

Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council sent out a list of five questions for candidates to answer for them, here are my responses…

 

1.What is your vision for Gisborne in terms of cultural diversity?

That all Gisborne people can feel proud of their unique cultural heritage and honoured for the diversity they bring to our community.

Gisborne could show other regions how to support the exchange and sharing of diverse cultural backgrounds in a way that enriches our town.

 

2. The Ten Year Plan says GDC will support the development of cultural groups in the district, what kind of support do you think GDC should provide to the Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council?

As part of GDC cultural responsiveness it could utilise the TMC to be a liaison network with community. GDC would then benefit from investing in the Council by providing administration support and resources. The Council could discuss further with GDC how it might like to have input into Council discussions.

 

3. What regular interaction do you have with groups of people from cultural backgrounds different to your own?

I have worked on aid and development programmes in Asia, Africa and the South Pacific but most of my work has been here in Gisborne and mostly within the Māori community. While I have Tongan whakapapa, my upbringing was pretty middle-class Pākehā – though I did spend a lot of time at marae, in hui and kapahaka as a child. Marrying a woman from Ngāti Porou and coming to live here has meant I have a direct family connection to mana whenua and have immersed myself in the culture of Māori communities both in Gisborne and on the Coast where we are intimately involved with a whānau marae. My wife and I have only ever spoken Te Reo Māori to our children and we’re committed to them being educated and socialised in Te Reo as well as the exposure they have everywhere to English. So we understand something of the struggle people from minority linguistic, religious and ethnic communities have to endure in this Anglo-Saxon dominated society.

I have been a founding member of the Tairāwhiti Inter-Faith Network and more recently the Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council – both are small but important networks that encourage people from diverse backgrounds to come together for the common good.

I’m regularly invited to Tongan and Pacific Island community events and recently participated in discussions around the establishment of a local consortium of Pasifika peoples focused on Whānau Ora initiatives for Tairāwhiti. I have supported migrants with immigration issues and negotiated on their behalf with immigration officials and lawyers. I have helped organise multicultural community events that bring people from diverse cultural backgrounds together in our neighbourhoods.

 

4. What, if any, common challenges are you aware of for local residents from ethnic minority groups?

Negative stereotypes are still around. Such unfair stereotyping of any group can detract from the community as a whole being able to draw from the energy and contributions a group can make.

There are still some groups over-represented in crime and educational failure and under-represented in business leadership and educational success. Initiatives like the Tongan Homework Support Programme utilising local volunteers and working with the students while the parents learn English at EIT is an exciting community-based response to do something about this situation.

Some particularly new to New Zealand arrivals can often feel isolated so strengthening community connections for those families is important. Also there needs to be support for ethnic minority groups to be able to feel that they have a home in our city and can adapt in ways that are useful to them, while also maintaining their own culture.

 

5. What are the biggest opportunities you see for attracting new immigrants and refugees to Gisborne?

As a city if we genuinely aspire towards sustainable solutions to the challenges that ethnic minorities face, this may attract their talents to our region.

There are opportunities to ask the Government to consider resettling some refugees here as they settled Burmese refugees in Nelson ten years ago. There are also a number of local businesses that rely on migrant workers – not only in low-skilled horticultural work but high tech positions like computer programming and materials technology. I met a PhD from Bangladesh who was working at Pultron and subsequently head-hunted by a company in Melbourne – he had some awesome ideas about developing composite materials from flax fibre here.

If Gisborne can show that it celebrates diversity and wants to involve ethnic groups in meaningful discussions on relevant issues – this would enhance the decision making process of GDC.

 





Are we all Placemakers?

14 05 2013

Imagell

While the Cycle and Walkways have consistently been the most popular of the Major Projects in the Council’s Ten Year Plan, the Navigations Project has been one of the least popular and most controversial. Both projects are arguably about ‘placemaking’ and economic development – cycleways focus on making the city a more attractive, healthy and liveable city, the Navigations Project is more about telling local history stories to locals and visitors.

Research recently published by an initiative called the Project for Public Spaces and promoted by the Institute of Public Governance at the University of California Berkeley has explored the links between placemaking and economic growth in communities.

The research suggests creation of great public spaces is good for the economy, but only when it’s truly community-driven, open and inclusive. The more attached to a place local people are, the higher a city or region’s economic activity: “Placemaking, in other words, is a vital part of economic development.” True placemaking involves an open process that welcomes everyone who wants in, which provides the opportunity for residents — who may or may not know each other — to share ideas and be heard.

“The end result should be a space that’s flexible enough to make room for many different communities, and encourage connections between them.” Or, the flip side:  “If Placemaking is project-led, development-led, design-led or artist-led, then it does likely lead to… a more limited set of community outcomes.”

The success of the cycle ways and inner-harbour development will depend on the level of ownership we all have in the planning and implementation of both projects.

The study also argues that communities can change governance for the better “by positioning public spaces at the heart of action-oriented community dialog, making room both physically and philosophically by re-framing citizenship as an on-going, creative collaboration between neighbors. The result is not merely vibrancy, but equity.”

Gisborne District Council has not had a great history of fostering public participation in planning and decision-making, usually opting for the minimum required. In fact the Consultation Policy adopted in 2008 specifically excluded citizen empowerment from the continuum of public involvement.

“Place Governance” on the other hand is a process by which decisions about places are made not from the top down, but by a collaborative process involving everyone. The Gisborne Fresh Water Advisory Group is a move toward this approach as it involves a wide cross-section of the community. However the FWAG falls short of real Place Governance because it is an exclusive group of organisations, meetings are not open to the public and the process is still controlled by Council.

The key actors in a Place Governance structure are not official agencies that deal with a few prescribed issues, but the people who use the area in question and are most intimately acquainted with its challenges. Officials who strive to implement this type of governance structure do so because they understand that the best solutions don’t come from within narrow disciplines, but from the points where people of different backgrounds come together.

I know some residents along the Taraheru River are concerned about how a boardwalk from Campion College to Grey Street may impact on the views, river access, tranquility and largely unspoiled riverfront they currently enjoy. While this project is on hold for the time being it will be essential for the residents, river users, iwi representatives, walkers and cyclists to work through how we can best utilise the public spaces along the river as this project proceeds. And I’m confident Council will ensure that happens.





Call for investigation into alleged human rights abuses

10 05 2013
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Opening of the Tongan language immersion unit at Kaiti School, 2012

Gisborne District Councillor Manu Caddie is calling for an investigation into alleged human rights abuses by Immigration New Zealand in Gisborne. Mr Caddie is very concerned about reports that two Tongan men being held at Gisborne Police Station have been denied access to lawyers and interpreters.

“Apparently the men are accused of being in New Zealand unlawfully and their lawyer says immigrants in Gisborne are being ‘actively discouraged’ from accessing legal counsel and interpreters.”

“These are serious accusations of human rights violations in our community by a government agency, we need an urgent and full investigation of the situation before anything happens to the men who should not be languishing in Police cells any longer than is necessary.”

Gisborne has a growing population of new immigrants, some who stay longer than their visa allows.

“My few experiences with Immigration New Zealand has suggested the agency often operates with impunity and forces people in similar circumstances to be deported so they cannot apply for the right to return for at least five years. These are hardworking people who contribute to the local economy, who have children in local schools and are often church leaders and positive, contributing members of our community.”

“The Tongan community is a vibrant part of the Gisborne population and it is important they have access to the support required. The Pacific island Community Trust does a good job of providing information to our Pasifika community but have very few resources to serve the rapidly expanding multicultural communities.”

Mr Caddie, who is of Tongan descent himself, says he understands there are approximately 2,500 Tongans now living in Gisborne, many work in low paid employment such as forestry and seasonal field work.

“I have just returned from the United States where undocumented workers is a massive issue across the country but the US government is finding constructive ways to address the challenges rather than use the dawn raids and deportation that still seem popular here. New Zealand needs to mature in the way we deal with new and ‘illegal’ immigrants as these families usually bring a work ethic and civic pride that seems to be missing in many Kiwis.”

ENDS

Radio Australia article: http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/international/radio/program/pacific-beat/nz-immigration-accused-of-denying-rights-to-overstayers/1128512





Walking For Jonathan

15 04 2013

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I expect we are all inspired and impressed with the feat Robert Hunter accomplished last week. Walking all the way from Hicks Bay to Gisborne demonstrated how passionate he is to ensure people who use marijuana know they risk mental illness as a result.

Robert says all along the way he heard numerous stories of heartbreak from family and friends of those affected by their use of marijuana. Robert’s son Jonathan was introduced to marijuana by friends and was one of many who develop psychotic symptoms when they use the drug a lot. It is marijuana use that his parents hold mostly responsible for Jonathan’s tragic suicide and it is the link between marijuana and psychosis they are campaigning about.

While Tairawhiti District Health Board and other local organisations no doubt receive thousands of taxpayer dollars for public health promotion every year, this simple act of love, Robert walking the length of our district in memory of his son, has generated more discussion on the issues in one week than anything else in recent memory.

We have to wonder where the community leaders are who will also speak out about the culture of acceptance. Is it the Tairawhiti District Health Board members and health professionals who are paid to promote wellbeing that are leading real change? Is it youth workers, counsellors, educators, police officers, probation officers and social workers that see the results of drugs in families and the effects on children? Is it local iwi leaders, sports stars, business people or other respected locals who have taken up the cause and helped communities rethink our addictions to marijuana, alcohol and other drugs?

Significant parts of our district accept drug abuse as part of the local culture, recognising its contribution to the local economy and passing on the habits from one generation to another. Few members of these communities are brave enough to challenge the dominant drug culture as it can literally result in attacks, ridicule or exclusion from the people and place they belong to.

For other parts of our community marijuana is an unfamiliar addiction, something that has only been picked up by a younger generation. But for this reason it can affect a family even more so and the inexplicable pain of having a child or grandchild take their own life is something no one should have to experience.

Research on the links between marijuana use and mental illness will benefit from this campaign, what we also need are decent support and treatment services appropriate for the range of individuals and families affected in our community. Next week there is a free two day training workshop for people interested in using a simple tool called ‘Smashed and Stoned’ that helps young people reflect on how and why they use drugs including marijuana, cigarettes and alcohol. I have found it very effective with teenagers and encourage others willing to be part of the solution to use it. Contact Bev Thomas at Turanga Health or Tim Marshall at Family Works to find out more.

It really was great to see so much support for his simple message as Robert passed through each settlement and a good turn out for the last leg into town. As Robert and Coralie have said, if the walk is able to spare just one family the pain of losing a family member, then the effort will have been worthwhile. Let’s hope it is the catalyst for sustained positive change in our community that will help many families.

Read more at: www.facebook.com/WalkingForJonathan





Community Appeal for the family of Amandeep Singh

25 01 2013

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People wishing to help the family of Amandeep Singh are able to make donations through a special appeal on behalf of Gisborne residents.

“We understand his family are not wealthy and want to show them that the Gisborne community is upset with what has happened” said organiser Manu Caddie.

“Gisborne people are very disturbed by this situation and I’m sure many residents will want to show their love and concern to his family in India.”

Ka Pai Kaiti Trust has agreed to administer the donations and pass them on to the family.

Contributions can, from Tuesday, be dropped into the front counter at Gisborne District Council in Fitzherbert Street, can be deposited into the Kiwibank account of Ka Pai Kaiti Trust (reference: SINGH) or may be posted to Ka Pai Kaiti Trust, PO Box 698, Gisborne 4010 with a note that it is for the family of Mr Singh. Donations can also be deposited into the Ka Pai Kaiti Trust bank account: 38-9001-0219689-00 (Kiwibank). Reference: SINGH.





Vulnerable children strategy misses opportunity

11 10 2012

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Government plans to better support children at risk of abuse have a range of good ideas but miss some important opportunities to reduce reliance on agencies according to a group using volunteers to improve child safety.

“The white paper strategy is almost exclusively focused on professionals and agencies – both government and non-government. We think they have missed a critical piece of the puzzle, which is utilising the healthy, caring adults in communities and neighbourhoods that children are being raised in. It takes a village to raise a child and healthy villages raise healthy children” said Manu Caddie the project manager for Tiakina o Tatou Tamariki, a neighbourhood project focused on keeping children safe in two suburbs of Gisborne and Whanganui.

“We have seen how adults within neighbourhoods can develop their skills and grow their commitment to supporting vulnerable families, including parents and children. Everyone can agree that kids should be safe, and providing opportunities for neighbours to get to know and trust each other reduces isolation and risk.”

Mr Caddie said some of the measures in the Government white paper released today sound ‘big brother’ and intrusive but there are a group of adults who should not have children in their care.

“It’s disappointing that most of the measures seem to give more power to the state and professionals, I guess we would have liked to see more focus on Government supporting neighbourhoods and communities to become healthy, trusting and well connected” said Mr Caddie.

“The Vulnerable Kids Information System to identify risks prior to birth may be useful, because it’s quite possible to see the train crash coming, but combined with the recently announced Government sterilisation of beneficiaries, there is a risk you are heading down a pathway to eugenics”.

A database of at-risk children could be a very powerful tool in child abuse prevention, but Mr Caddie points to existing national databases of at-risk children and wonders how successful these have been.

“We know for all the good work Child, Youth & Family do, their extensive national database that tracks children and families still contains many, many children who are being mistreated.”

Mr Caddie said he hoped parents would be supported to access the information agencies held about the families as professionals can misuse their power, even when they think they are helping.

Mr Caddie said Te Ora Hou Aotearoa, the organisation he works for supports the white paper proposal for a national education campaign to identify signs of abuse, but would also like to see a campaign focused on keeping kids safe and cared for.

Tiakina o Tatou Tamariki involves ‘Community Animators’ mobilising neighbourhood residents and other volunteers to build trusting, supportive relationships within communities with a focus on keeping children safe and healthy. The three year project is privately funded and a recent evaluation suggested it is demonstrating value for money as an investment in the prevention of child maltreatment.

Te Ora Hou is a national network of faith-based Māori and Pacific youth and community development organisations established in 1976. Te Ora Hou supports volunteers to mentor children and young people as well providing a range of educational and developmental opportunities for children and parents including teen parenting initiatives, early childhood centres, alternative education programmes and rehabilitation services for young offenders.

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More information:

www.teorahou.org.nz

Tel. 0274202957





Dancing With The Stars – Kaiti Styles

25 07 2012




A week of exciting opportunities…

5 06 2012

I thought about setting up a bed in the corner of the Council chambers last week – four days straight in there with extra reading in the evenings meant I enjoyed the long weekend!

It was awesome to hear from such a cross section of our community. A lot of submitters both urban and rural are concerned about environmental issues like erosion control, flood protection and waste management. We received huge support from both urban and rural folk for improved cycle-ways and walkways in the city, as a result we’ve agreed to bring those projects forward a couple of years.

I find the whole central government planning and funding regime for transport quite appalling – there is no integrated transport planning process and regional priorities get sidelined if they don’t match national priorities. So we’re doing a study of the impact of heavy vehicles in the city and looking for solutions that don’t include scenarios involving rail – go figure. Taxpayers are forking out the ridiculous sum of $14 billion for a few gold-plated Roads of Significance to National while State Highway 35 is falling off the hillside in numerous places with no money to fix the dropouts or build better routes.

This is an exciting week for Tairāwhiti as the Transit of Venus events see world-leading thinkers and doers grace our shores following Captain Cook’s crew.

Cook was a world-leading explorer with a remarkable story of innovation and adaptability that we can still learn much from. His time in this part of the country was a mixed bag to say the least and while locals still grapple with the legacy he left, it is important to acknowledge the constructive engagement and mutual discoveries that emerged during his visit.

It has been encouraging to see local young people wrestling with the name Cook assigned to Poverty Bay and I’ve been impressed with the number of people who have contacted me over the past month about adding another official name.

Dame Anne Salmond has pointed to Cook’s journals that suggest his Tahitian guide Tupaia was told the name for the bay was Oneroa. Local iwi know the land as Turanganui-a-Kiwa, Tūranga-a-Mua, Tūranga Ararau, Tūranga Makaurau and Tūranga Tangata.

I don’t think we need to toss out the name Poverty Bay – it is part of the story of this place and is as much a part of the local community as Kaiti Hill, Rere Rockslide and Meng’s cooking.

It would however be helpful to have another official name that we can use for promoting the area and acknowledging it had a name well before Europeans arrived here. Plenty of places around New Zealand now have two official names.

If anyone is really keen to progress the issue please get in touch as I’d like to get us together to make it happen sooner rather than later.





Terrorist Barbie?

5 04 2012

 

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UPDATE: The Broadcasting Standards Authority upheld the right of Radio New Zealand to broadcast such appalling statements under the Broadcasting Standards. Here is their decision in response to my complaint: http://bsa.govt.nz/decisions/show/4312

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Original post: 29 October 2011

I was listening to Radio NZ’s Afternoons with Jim Mora  on Thursday 25th October just after 4pm and believe the host and a panelist made discriminatory remarks about the Muslim community. I am making a complaint to Radio NZ, and if not satisfied with their response, will take it to the Broadcasting Standards Authority .

The panelists suggest names such as “terrorist Barbie” and “suicide bomber Barbie” with an explosives belt. John Bishop (‘panelist’) and Paul Brennan (host) are the offenders.

Here’s the whole show – and the offending comments.

Here’s my letter of complaint:

- – - – -

On Radio NZ’s Afternoons with Jim Mora on Thursday 25th October just after 4pm the host and a panelist made remarks about the Muslim community that I believe breached the Radio Code.

John Bishop (a ‘panelist’) and Paul Brennan (the ‘host’) suggested names such as “terrorist Barbie” and “suicide bomber Barbie” with an explosives belt would sell well in the Muslim world.

This is a formal complaint regarding those remarks.

I believe these comments breach the following standards:

Standard 1: Good Taste and Decency.
I believe the comments were bad taste in the extreme.

Standard 5: Accuracy
I believe the suggestion that there may be a market for terrorist and suicide Barbies in the Muslim world is quite inaccurate – if there were any Muslims interested in getting suicide dolls for their children, a Barbie doll is the likely to be the last option Muslims who admire terrorists and suicide bombers would consider purchasing.

Standard 7: Discrimination and Denigration
I believe the comments discriminated and denigrated the Muslim sector of our community on the basis of their religion and culture as implying some inherent connection between the Muslim faith and culture and terrorism and suicide bombers has no factual basis. While the comments may be couched as the presenters views, I do not believe the comments were factual in terms of the link made between people of the Muslim faith and terrorism or suicide bombers, if the comments were based on some kind of serious analysis I can’t understand what that would be and I’d be surprised if anyone found the comments funny or satirical.

Standard 8: Responsible Programming
I do not believe that the programme content was socially responsible. After school is a normally accepted radio listening time for children and the comments in this broadcast could encourage children to associate all adherents of the Muslim faith with terrorism and suicide bombing.

I look forward to a response from Radio New Zealand on this matter within the required timeframes.

Manu Caddie
21 Cambridge Tce,
Kaiti,
Gisborne 4010.
Tel. 0274 202 957

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I expect a response from Radio New Zealand on this matter within the statutory timeframes and encourage others who are similarly concerned to send their complaints to Radio NZ via their Online Complaints Form.





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.





Local Government Reforms?

20 03 2012

Some of the reforms being proposed for local government by Minister of Local Government Dr Nick Smith are to be welcomed.

For one, I think it’s great to see a review of Development Contributions. No doubt the review will find that they need to be increased so that essential services such as social housing can be part-funded when a flash new subdivision is built. New Zealand is one of the few countries that doesn’t require such a provision.

However, many of the reforms aren’t so welcome.

I raised the issue of being proactive about the pending reforms at last week’s Community Development Committee meeting and was told by council colleagues that the Minister was simply “flying a kite” and was unlikely to make any radical changes.

But some of the changes certainly seem radical to me, particularly the gutting of local government to be nothing more than an engineering department and administrative office for fast-tracking resource consents.

I encourage Gisborne residents to provide feedback through the 10-year plan consultation process on what services they want to see their council provide.

For example, does council have a role in monitoring how central government spends locally? And should we be concerned about local social and economic development issues?

If central government was so good at it, we wouldn’t have any homeless, any youth unemployed, any hungry kids, any crime.

The reality is central government does a terrible job of addressing social issues, education and health care because there is so little accountability and lack of responsiveness to local priorities. Ruatoria is not Wellington and Elgin is not Dunedin . . . one size doesn’t fit all and centralised government is the problem not the solution.

For a party that espouses the virtues of personal responsibility and local autonomy — and loved to bleat about the “nanny state” — these reforms seem more consistent with a totalitarian, centralised system of government that will increasingly dictate to communities what is best for us, and will remove local checks on central government decisions while expropriating resources from our communities.

Council spending across the country on so called “non-core services” (such as culture, recreation and sport) declined by $185 million between 2008 and 2010 to just 13.2 percent of authority spending.

From 2007-2010 rates were a stable portion of household expenditure, holding steady at 2.25 percent.

The recent Productivity Commission’s draft report on housing affordability notes that rates have been declining in relation to property values, indicating that in terms of household wealth, rates are becoming less significant.

While the government is borrowing heavily to fund it’s seven gold-plated highway projects, it’s hypocritical to be telling councils to stop wasting money.

Dr Smith has manufactured a crisis to drive through changes based on ideology, not evidence.





What’s in a name?

17 03 2012

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

- Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

In this scene Juliet insists that a name is an artificial and meaningless convention, that she loves the person and asks Romeo to reject his family name and instead be “new baptised” as Juliet’s lover.

Of course we know names are important, and the motivation for either lover to discard their family name was in part the conflict associated with the political struggle between their families.

The contest between place names around the world has usually been about political and cultural power. Of course these days it doesn’t have to be just one or the other name that is officially sanctioned.

Māori brought names from other places in Polynesia and bestowed those on physical features of these islands, and as settlement expanded the places were named and renamed according to significant people, events and stories associated with the location.

Early Europeans displaced most of the original Māori names with their own, although many original names have survived, mostly in the “North Island”. But similar to Māori, European settlers (re)named places after the areas, people and events that were special to them.

The Royal Geographical Society of London was responsible for approving place names until 1894 when authority was given to the New Zealand Governor-General. In 1946 the New Zealand Geographic Board (NZGB) was established and given power to change or implement Māori and English names.

Anyone can propose a geographical name to the board, who consult local Māori and allow public submissions before determining if the name should be made official.

The NZGB encourages the use of original Māori names and has given some places official double names. For example either Mount Taranaki or Mount Egmont can be used, and dual names can be approved where both names should be used together for example Matiu / Somes Island. In 1998, as a result of the settling of the Ngai Tahu Treaty claim, the county’s tallest mountain, officially became Aoraki / Mount Cook.

The NZGB can alter the local authority names for a district or region over which a territorial authority or regional council has jurisdiction. Only local authorities can propose alterations to their district and region names.

I floated the idea of the Gisborne District Council name change at the Community Development Committee last week and had a few supporters around the table, but I doubt the majority of my colleagues are ready to entertain the idea just yet. There would need to be a strong, coherent and consistent message from a wide cross section of the public for any Council to lead that process.

I suspect changing Poverty Bay should be a bit easier – while we all have some emotional connection to its use in organisation names, the bay and the flats, it is a branding nightmare for the region that has to be sorted out.

Dame Anne Salmond notes that Captain James Cook was told the name of the bay was Oneroa, meaning ‘sweeping sandy beaches’, which makes sense and subject to sufficient local support, would be much easier to utilise in promoting our beautiful location to prospective visitors, migrants and investors.

Many locals would prefer Māori names that have more historical and cultural significance than Gisborne. Similarly, while the Colonial Secretary Mr Gisborne may never visited the place named in his honour, the name ‘Gisborne’ now has a lot of meaning and emotional attachment for many people with connections here.

I’m confident we can keep the sweetness of both the rose and the kumara by having two official names.





The Transforming Power of Love, Hope & Faith

10 02 2012

A number of New Zealand studies suggest that more than half of people leaving gangs are assisted through the process by involvement with a church or faith community.

Taking Matthew 25 seriously, many church communities also provide an essential support for those coming out of prison who have few resources or support people.

Criminologist Professor John Pitts speaking at a gang prevention conference organised by church leaders in the UK said:

“The value of faith community involvement in gang initiatives is that church members are local, they are often connected with the young people and families experiencing these problems, they have made a personal commitment to helping and they are likely to be around for much longer than the professionals – and continuity is very important in this kind of work.”


He added:

“However good intentions and commitment aren’t enough. This is complex and sometimes dangerous work, and we need to find ways in which statutory and voluntary agencies can work with faith groups to provide high quality training and ongoing support.”

A new gang transformation initiative supported by Safe Tairawhiti, Gisborne District Council, NZ Police, schools and residents associations also needs local churches involved.

We hope to learn from the success of faith-based groups like Sam Chapman’s Awhi Community Development organization in South Auckland, Prison Fellowship NZ and Wesley Community Action in Porirua that have been working with gang leaders over the past few years.

While many of his contemporaries thought the best approach to beating the Romans was to meet violence with violence, Jesus advocated a more creative engagement. Designed to help people mature and move on from the ‘might is right’ paradigm, Jesus used the restorative power of love, hope and faith to transform both oppressive and marginalised communities. Perhaps we can too?





Māori Representation

7 11 2011

At the risk of being called a sore loser, I think it’s useful to outline in more detail than the couple of lines possible in a newspaper story why I support the establishment of Māori wards for Gisborne District Council.

While the majority of Gisborne District councilors rejected the option last month, it is exciting to see that both Waikato Regional Council and Nelson City Council (unanimously) have followed Bay of Plenty Regional Council and chosen to establish Māori wards.

There seem to be two or three main reasons people don’t like the idea of Māori wards for Gisborne District Council.

The first is the suggestion that Māori wards will mean less representation for rural residents. The argument goes that the wards will be so large it will be hard for elected members to get around. By all accounts, BOP Regional Council’s very successful Māori wards arrangement has at least one ward larger than the whole Gisborne District. Our GDC staff proposal was to have two or three Māori wards, thereby keeping the ward sizes small enough.

In addition, the proposal would mean that rural residents have twice as many councilors responsible for their area as there would be two not one councilor covering every rural area. This would result in  more choice of councilors to contact and twice as much representation for both Māori and general electors. There is also a strong argument for what is currently Matakaoa ward to be considered isolated which would mean at least two general wards on the coast and one Māori.

Another criticism of Māori wards is that it doesn’t guarantee people with mana whenua (ancestral connections) to the area would be elected. The last census showed however that 90% of Māori residing in the district have affiliations with at least one iwi within Gisborne District Council boundaries and if Tūhoe and Te Whānau-a-Apanui are included it rises to around 99%.

So, it is highly unlikely that anyone standing for a Māori seat would not be connected to local iwi and boundaries for wards have been suggested as running along the Waimata River that usually demarcates the boundary between Ngāti Porou and Turanga iwi.

One of my main concerns with the GDC decision was that Māori in particular, but also the wider public, had not been properly consulted on the intention to reject Māori wards. Under the Local Government Act there are some pretty clear rules for ensuring proper consultation on these kinds of decisions. A number of Māori groups were informed that Council intended to make a decision but the information exchange was minimal. Māori certainly had little, if any, opportunity to take the proposals back to their communities to discuss and have input on the final decision.

Of course, really motivated residents could organise another petition and collect the necessary 1,517 valid voter signatures by the end of February.  I’m not sure however that enough people think this issue is a priority to give up their summer holidays for. As the saying goes, we get the government we deserve and I can live with that if others don’t think it is a priority.

A final argument is that Māori wards are divisive, unfair and even racist. Of course over the last 40 years much progress has been made at a national level in recognising the special status of Maori as indigenous peoples. International acknowledgment of the value of protecting the unique cultures of human civilization has enabled national legislation and policies designed to ensure indigenous peoples maintain customs, language and some semblance of control over natural resources. These have been required as for hundreds of years settler societies have imposed majoritarian systems of decision-making and resource allocation. These settler systems have usually overlooked or dismissed the interests of indigenous peoples who by design, tradition or choice have remained on the margins of local governance systems.





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.





Hasta la Victoria Siempre

30 08 2011

Socialism made the headlines locally and at a national level last week. The Prime Minister explained his admission that a socialist streak runs through New Zealanders by acknowledging he too holds socialist ideals. And an aspiring Mayoral candidate blamed socialists on Gisborne District Council for the increase in his rates demand, which he thinks is a form of wealth tax. Of course he failed to mention his properties are collectively worth many millions of dollars and the proportion of his rates to property value is less than one tenth of what the vast majority of us contribute.

As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, “the term socialist has been so evacuated of content over the last century that it’s hard even to use in any sensible way. The Soviet Union was called a socialist society by the two major propaganda powers in the world at the time. The west called the Soviet Union socialist to defame it by association with the miserable tyranny and the Soviets called it socialism to benefit from the moral appeal that true socialism had among large parts of the general world population.” But the Soviet Union was about as remote from socialism as you can imagine. The core notion of traditional socialism is that working people have to be in control of production and communities have to be in control of their own lives. The Soviet Union was the exact opposite of local control, the working people were virtual slaves. Chomsky suggests the collapse of the Soviet Union was in fact a great victory for socialism.

There are attempts today to describe a detailed vision of a socialist future and some of the most extensive and detailed are examples like Participatory Economics and the moves toward an extension of democracy to the industrial sphere through worker-owned cooperatives.

Philosopher and educationalist John Dewey’s main work concentrated on democracy and he pointed out that as long as we have industrial feudalism – that is, private power controlling production and commerce – our democracy will be very limited, we have to move to what he called industrial democracy if we hope to have democracy of any significance.

The way for individuals to realise the democracy “in their own hearts” was through community. As Dewey wrote, “it is through association that man has acquired his individuality and it is through association that he exercises it. The theory which sets the individual over against society, of necessity contradicts itself.”

Dewey believed that direct participation in a democracy would foster an unexpected talent for thoughtful deliberation in ordinary citizens. “We lie in the lap of an immense intelligence,” he said. The difficulty was to unleash this intelligence, which remained dormant until “it possesses the local community as its medium.” In The Public and its Problems — Dewey’s only work of formal political philosophy — he outlined an elaborate program of truly participatory democracy, one built around face-to-face interactions in “neighborly communities.”

The idea that people should be in control of their own destiny and lives including the institutions within which they work and the communities within which they live is traditional socialism.

So when the label socialist gets used pejoratively by people who should know better, I hope John Key is correct, that New Zealanders do all have a socialist streak and we are proud of that commitment to local, egalitarian democracy that protects us from the tyranny of both big government and big business.





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.”

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




Neighbours Day Everyday…

21 03 2011

I met a wonderful couple this week, grandparents with huge hearts for their family and for other local families. Born into poor circumstances themselves, this couple know what it is like to really struggle. They have tragedies in their own extended family to deal with but wanted to know how they could help Kaiti kids reach their potential.

These grandparents want to connect with other people their age and younger ones to talk about how their generation can make more useful contributions to young families in Gisborne.

We talked a bit about Tairāwhiti Positive Aging Trust and other groups that support seniors to be active in wider community life. Healthy churches, marae and sports clubs are still great places for intergenerational relationships to be nurtured and life lessons passed on to younger people.

Neighbours Day this weekend is an opportunity for us to think about the people we live close to but may not feel close to. When we reestablish trust and care within our streets it has been proven to reduce crime, increase safety, school attendance, health and happiness. Every one of us should know that when we have reason to worry, celebrate or grieve, someone will notice and someone will care. Many people in our communities don’t have that support and it is so encouraging to hear when residents are willing to make an effort to be that special someone for a neighbour or family in need.

I also met with a young man this week who is concerned about neighbourhood safety and, with signatures of support from everyone in his street, has been trying to get Council to install speed inhibitors to prevent another crash that could injure or kill a child. Whether or not he succeeds with his campaign for the speed bumps or chicanes (I certainly hope he does), it is awesome to see young people taking responsibility for making their neighbourhood a safe and enjoyable place for those who live there and visit the area.

It has been heartening to see the people willing to make the effort to present their ideas and concerns to Council committees and public meetings over the last few weeks.

Submissions on the Draft Annual Plan are due by 31 March. Whether or not the local stuff you care about is mentioned in the Plan, it is an essential part of the democratic process and you can make a submission about anything you are passionate about.

In the future I’m keen to look at extending the influence residents and (direct and indirect) ratepayers have on the Council budget. Participatory budgeting is a small but energetic movement through which ordinary people directly decide how a portion of their municipal budget is spent. Pioneered in Porto Alegre, Brazil in 1990 as a democratisation strategy, the process has spread to over 1,200 cities around the world. From Cologne in Germany to Entebbe in Uganda, the concept is giving more people more control over how their tax dollars are spent locally. An interesting discovery through the models developed to date is that as residents spend time deliberating on the budget with their neighbours they start making decisions based on the collective good rather than individual interests.

Perhaps on Neighbours Day this weekend you could have a conversation about what would be the collective good for your street and the district as a whole? Oh, and please let us know what you decide.








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