The Meanings of Democracy

For some people democracy simply means ticking a box for a preferred person or political party once every three years. For others, like those who designed the participatory budget process in Brazil, it means people at the street level having monthly input into the decisions of municipal governments and the priorities of the public purse.

In Gisborne there are also a range of views on what democracy means. For some councillors it means they have been elected with a mandate to make decisions without any input from residents – for others it means council has a leadership role in helping our communities arrive at the best solution to common problems.

GDC staff recently proposed council focus on improving the way the organisation engages with residents of the region. A sensible, well thought out project with no additional costs was put to councillors and immediately dismissed by the majority of our elected representatives. Why did they do this? The councillors said council staff don’t need to encourage more community involvement because the councillors are the community and know everything about it!

Many people in our district don’t realise we have the power to influence positive change for our family, the wider community and the natural environment. The full potential of all citizens needs to be unlocked if this region is going to really prosper.

People connected to the poorest parts of our district need to be on Council so the issues holding us back are properly understood by decision-makers and effective action can happen. How many Councillors have we had who live in Munroe Street, Belfast Crescent or Tyndall Road? How can we encourage a greater sense of civic responsibility amongst residents from every neighbourhood?

I am keen to be part of a Council that helps realise the full potential of our region by encouraging rather than dismissing new ideas. A Council that wants to ensure everyone in the District has access to basics like healthy housing, quality education and decent jobs. That doesn’t mean Council has to provide all these things but it should be an advocate for urgent improvements in these areas.

We need to establish a ’50,000 by 2020 Taskforce’ to work with the whole community on strategies to attract educated young families to relocate here. A more educated, skilled and settled population will help spread the cost of rates and ensure we can live in an attractive, vibrant and safe city.

My campaign website (www.manu.org.nz) contains my views on a wide range of local issues over the past few years. There is information about my family background, details on my track record of community involvement and a list of endorsements from respected locals. It also provides a space for residents and ratepayers to share concerns, ask questions and promote ideas.

To make an informed decision when you vote please check out the website or give me a call to find out more about what I will be standing for if elected to Council.

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