Love Your Library

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

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

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

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

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

Regional Cycling Vision

Congratulations to Kim Smith, Hans van Kregten and the other Council staff for the Eastland Traverse being selected to proceed to the next stage for consideration as part of the Prime Minister’s National Cycleways Project.

The quality of the proposal reflects the input from tourism operators, cycling advocates, DOC, councillors and our friends on the other side of the Waioweka Gorge. If we can get this cycleway established it will be a significant visitor attraction, supporting economic development all along the route and into the city all year round.

While there are no guarantees that the Eastland Traverse will receive central government funding, it is still a good example of what can happen when local government works collaboratively with the community to develop the best options for the region. The costs of improving the signage and a few bridges on the Opotiki side are a fraction of other cycleway proposals and offer great value for a small investment of public funds.

The establishment of the Cycling Advisory Group one year ago was fortuitous as we have been able to provide Council and other stakeholders in the region’s transport systems with timely advice on a range of issues and plans.

Making it easy and safe for people to cycle to work and school is one of the key goals of the Cycling Advisory Group. Driver and cyclist education, road design – particularly roundabouts and key areas around schools are all activities that the Cycling Advisory Group has assisted local authorities with over the past year.

This week we are looking at how cities in Europe have changed the way they think about roads and set targets for increasing the proportion of short trips that are made by cycling instead of driving.

Gisborne District, Northland and Taranaki now share the lowest rates of cycling in the country. People living in Christchurch cycle more than ten times as often as we do. I suspect we don’t have ten times the crash rate as them. What is our vision for our city and how does more cycling and walking (which we also follow the rest of the country in) fit into the urban design of Gisborne?

In Wellington the Council has a goal of 15% of commuters cycling by 2016 – Gisborne has a much more compact city, few hills and much better weather, so this could be a goal that we aspire to surpass within the same timeframe.

Establishing safer cycling routes is a priority for the Cycling Advisory Group and we welcome suggestions from the public on how to improve hot spots. Our monthly meetings are open to the public and limited to one hour over lunchtime. Together we are crafting a vision for cycling in Gisborne and everybody has a part to play in this process.

Call for better care

Following a major fire in Kaiti, local community worker Manu Caddie says parents need to take more responsibility for knowing where their children are at all times.
Mr Caddie knows the children responsible for a fire in a Kaiti public reserve that threatened houses in Oxford Street on Saturday and does not think they had any intention of causing so much damage.
International research cited by Mr Caddie confirms that the four most important things families can do to keep their young people out of trouble with the law are: spending quality time with them; knowing where they are and who they are with; getting them involved with positive social activities like sport, marae or church activities; and ensuring they are attending school.
“We have developed resources for families that remind them about these facts but many caregivers are struggling with a wide range of personal, financial and social issues that mean children can sometimes miss out on the level of care they need” said Mr Caddie.
“The government recently introduced its Breakaway Holiday Programme funding for community groups to provide activities for young people but these youth only need to come from general areas rather than targeting children we know come from families that may need extra support. The compliance requirements for the funding are so onerous that most neighbourhood level groups were excluded so its left to corporate style organisations who are not necessarily connected to the communities that need the service.”
Mr Caddie said he was approached by a local resident before Christmas about the risk that the reserve presented because of children playing unsupervised in the area. The resident had contacted Gisborne District Council to see if they were interested in clearing some of the scrub and putting in a playground or something but were told that wasn’t possible.
“When I contacted the Parks and Reserves Manager he was more than happy to meet with local residents and so some of the children who started the fire had helped distribute a flyer in letterboxes around the reserve to see if there were other residents keen to see something happen there.”
Mr Caddie said he was planning to follow-up with the residents about the reserve in the next month and hoped that now the fire had cleared the scrub and demonstrated the need for something more to be done in the reserve the residents could work with GDC and interested community groups to make something happen there.

My Priorities

These are the things I think are important and would strive to promote if I was elected to Council next year…

  1. A region that values the rich traditions and diversity of all its residents.
  2. A region of safe communities based on caring relationships between families.
  3. A region that fosters innovation, enterprise, the creative sectors and scientific discovery.
  4. A region that nurtures well-educated young people and leaves no one behind.
  5. A region that is a magnet for young families and values the contributions of older people.
  6. A region that will leave the natural environment better than we found it.
  7. A region that is committed to ensuring housing, energy and healthy food are affordable and that supports families to manage their finances wisely.
  8. A region that understands the importance of increasing the economic productivity and sustainability of agriculture, horticulture and forestry.
  9. A region that promotes the use of cycling and walking for most people making short journeys.
  10. A region that is well connected with the rest of the planet through low-cost, high-speed, internet access.
  11. A Council that encourages public participation in decision-making.
  12. A Council that is able to keep any rates increases at (or below) the rate of inflation while still providing quality services and infrastructure.

Council Draft 10 Year Plan Submissions

Here are some of the submissions I helped prepare on the Council’s Draft 10 Year Plan – opportunities to speak to the submissions come up in early June:

Council keen to make cycling safer in Gisborne

A Cycling Advisory Group is being established by the Gisborne District Council to work together with the community on cycling issues in the city.

The idea for the group followed a request by the Critical Mass cycling group for the council to improve safety and grow the numbers of cyclists in Gisborne.

The terms of reference for the group will be established at its first meeting. This will be held on 25 March at 12 noon at the Gisborne District Council offices in Fitzherbert Street.

Organisers hope it will include representatives from a range of cycling interests including schools and the police.

The overall purpose of the group will be to provide advice on how to make cycling safer and encourage more people to use the facilities of the walking and cycling network being created by council. They will also have input into the Walking and Cycling Strategy. The group will work closely with the Road Safety Officer from council and the Traffic and Education Officers from the police.

One of the first tasks will be to look at cyclist safety at roundabouts. Council’s Engineering Manager Peter Higgs says “this is a great opportunity to work together with the community. As with many issues, the solutions are likely to be a combination of actions including the three “Es” – engineering, education and enforcement.

The safety of cyclists is a matter for which all road users have a responsibility” Manu Caddie, one of the Critical Mass organisers, says he is pleased to see council willing to establish a mechanism for ongoing dialogue with the cycling community.

“Beyond making the streets safer for cycling we are keen to see proactive measures in place to encourage more people to move around by bicycle.” “One of our older members only had to fill up his car twice last year because he cycles most places.

Cycling has environmental, health and economic benefits that council and other organisations need to promote.” “We encourage all cyclists to come along to this meeting.” says Mr Caddie.

Māori Youth Development Briefing

daffodil-day

I was invited to present a briefing on Maori Youth Development to incoming MPs in the new parliament on 10 December 2008. After consulting with my networks around the country – the following is what I presented. While it is a national set of priorities, I am confident the regional priorities would be closely aligned with this list.

– – – – – – – –
PRIORITY RECOMMENDATIONS:

1. Prioritise Community Building & Intergenerational Connectedness:

a. Encourage more community development rather than just social services. For example support key households in high deprivation neighbourhoods who are doing good things for their community (unfunded activities that address issues like dysfunctional relationships, family violence, mentoring for parents, out of school activities for tamariki/rangatahi, intergenerational connectedness, etc.).

b. Support public campaigns in communities that encourage volunteers to mentor rangatahi.

c. Support research into rites of passage and initiation traditions in New Zealand – particularly within Māori communities – and encourage communities to reestablish healthy markers of the transition to adulthood.

2. Prioritise Whānau Capacity Building:

a. Fund more social marketing and resource development for whānau to provide positive parenting through early childhood and adolescent years.

3. Prioritise Innovative Education Options & Student Support Services:

a. Continue to increase access to quality early childhood services and parents as first teachers initiatives.

b. Increase access to early intervention at primary school age, less need for more expert diagnosis and more need for caring mentors from within the local community who can provide pro-social, developmental experiences and model
healthy relationships and conflict resolution.

c. Increase access to high quality school-based social workers and youth workers – to help address behaviour and attitudes that contribute to under-achievement, class disruption and early school exits.

d. Expand the range of schools implementing initiatives like Te Kotahitanga that challenge unhelpful attitudes and raise expectations of students by school staff.

e. Increase alternative trade training and vocational options for students at risk of disengaging in early high school.

4. Prioritise Quality Decision-Making:

a. Increase opportunities for public policy and funding decisions to be made at the
local level.

b. Require government and NGO organisations to provide independent evidence of
their ongoing commitment to local collaboration before receiving public funding.

c. Resource the non-government sector to engage robustly on public policy debates, developments and decisions.

OTHER RECOMMENDATIONS:
• Provide more support from central and local government for sustainable marae development – particularly in rural areas.
• Review the range of incentives and barriers for whānau to live and work on multiply owned Māori land.
• Encourage iwi authorities and Māori Trust Boards to transfer the delivery of social services to hapu clusters and Māori organisations that have this as their core business.
• Support participation in Human Rights education within Māori communities and capacity building efforts that raise the confidence and competence of whānau Māori to engage with public institutions.
• Support the establishment of opportunities for young people from high deprivation backgrounds to participate in overseas experiences in poor communities in the Asia-Pacific region.
• Provide more incentives for ‘old school’ kaiako in Kura Kaupapa to change or make way for young, skilled and enthusiastic teachers.
• Support the development of school engagement (truancy) services at the local instead of district level.
• Increase accountability for schools who use the ‘kiwi suspension’ to abdicate their responsibility for educating children with problem behaviours on their roll.
• Ensure Teen Parent Units and Early Childhood Education Services attached to them are available in every community that has a high school.
• Investigate the expansion of outdoor learning experiences for junior high school students.
• Support Māori immersion education contexts to raise their profile and make them a more viable choice for whānau.
• Learn from the Gisborne Marae Youth Court Project and establish other sites to increase experience of alternative contexts and processes for youth justice that show promising results.
• Develop joint government and NGO infrastructure around the YOSEC tool to promote more effective services to prevent youth offending.
• Provide paid Coordinators for Youth Offending Teams and include NGOs in the Teams.
• Establish new funding pool for prevention and early intervention child/youth development services on the continuum between OSCAR programmes and CYF YJ services.
• Support more local community initiated, designed, implemented and utilised social research.
• Review the level of commitment local government organisations make to child and youth participation in decision-making.
• Increase resourcing for salaries and access to quality training & supervision for youth workers in education institutions, particularly those working with rangatahi Māori.
• Improve monitoring of publicly funded services to increase effectiveness without increasing compliance costs.
• Investigate barriers to government contract managers making unpopular but important decisions when services cannot account for where the funding is going.
• Support the development of more evidence on key components for effective youth development programmes and organisations – particularly for rangatahi Māori is a large gap in our knowledge base.
• Encourage community-based central government agencies.
• Reward the completion of study and training.
• Contractually require providers of funded youth services to contribute to local marae.
• Resource and require youth services to operate outside of 9am-5pm weekdays.

– – – – –

Manu Caddie is based in Gisborne and works as a researcher and advisor for three national youth and community development organisations. He has previously taught in alternative education, managed a Māori youth and community development NGO, assisted with overseas development projects in Asia and the Pacific and worked in the funding and contracting division of Child, Youth & Family.

He requested feedback at short notice from 20 Māori youth and community development workers around the country for the content of this brief briefing paper. 12 of the 20 provided suggestions.

Positive Ageing

I spoke at the Positive Ageing Expo last week and read from the draft Positive Ageing in Action Accord:

“Positive ageing in Tairawhiti will only become a reality when society respects all seniors, values their knowledge, wisdom and skills, and acknowledges the considerable contributions they make to family and community life…

“For positive ageing in Tairawhiti to become a reality, people of all ages must acquire deep respect for the dignity of seniors and the wisdom they have gained from many years of experience. Our history resides in their memories.

ACTIONS:

3. Promote inter-generational programmes in schools and communities to overcome ageist stereotypes, build inter-generational bonds and enhance the understanding of a wide range of historical topics, social issues and cultural perspectives.

I said I thought these statements and the proposed action should be much earlier on in the document as I think attitudes in the wider society present the biggest challenge and opportunity to realising positive ageing for everyone.

By the time I am 65 years old there will be twice as many people aged over 65 as there are today. Our country and community will see this as a great opportunity only when we all appreciate the treasure that our elders are to us and the world. The ageing population is not a liability, and not a problem to be solved – it is something we need to plan for but it is about realising the value in every person who has a story to tell, critical perspectives on a wide range of issues and experiences that we all need to learn from as we honour those passing on and those still to come.

Adults Attitudes Challenged

Youth advocate Manu Caddie says statements made by Gisborne Citizens Civic Awards winner Murray Ferris, and endorsed by Mayor Meng Foon at the Awards Ceremony last week were typical of the unfortunate and unhelpful attitudes local adults held about young people.

Responding to the comments attributed to Mr Ferris in the Gisborne Herald, Manu Caddie said it was clear such comments demonstrated Mr Ferris had very little knowledge of the positive contributions local young people make to the community.

“Claiming we need to ‘kick some butt’ and blaming young people for being selfish is like blaming the victim for the crime” said Mr Caddie. “Children and young people simply reflect the values of the community in which they are raised. The contradictory messages young people get from the adult world do not make it easy to feel like valued members of their society.”

A survey of over 600 young people undertaken in 2003 revealed that less than one in ten local young people felt that anyone other than their friends and immediate family cared about their ideas or opinions.

In 2004 over 100 young people made submissions to the Gisborne District Council Long Term Council Community Plan simply asking to be acknowledged as full citizens. “Those requests were ignored in the final LTCCP document and now we wonder why young people don’t feature in awards to recognise citizenship” said Mr Caddie.

Mr Caddie said there are hundreds of examples of young people making significant contribution to their community everyday. He questioned how the Civic Awards were promoted and decided upon – what the criteria was, who the judges were and whether it was promoted to young people in a medium that they would respond to. “Not everyone reads the Public Notices – did they take the nomination information into schools, youth groups and organisations working with young people? Did they post information up at the Skate Park and on Bebo, and do young people need to be recognised by some Civic Awards ceremony to actually be making a positive contribution anyway?”

Mr Caddie thinks adults in the Gisborne community need to take a long hard look at the way young people are treated here – it’s not about giving them everything they want, nor about blaming young people for things beyond their control. Children and young people should be acknowledged as full citizens who have the same fundamental rights as everyone else. Young people have some responsibilities as members of a community and research demonstrates that when young people are taken seriously and not treated as second-class citizens they always step up to challenge.

“I attended a public meeting of over 40 people that was on at the same time as the Civic Awards ceremony, it included two local teenagers leading a 30 minute presentation on a United Nations Declaration passed this month. They were not rewarded for doing their research and the presentation, they did it because they care about the future of this country and their generation.”

Last week the Gisborne Herald featured two articles on local school students raising funds for projects overseas and one group going to serve a community in a developing country for a week.

Mr Caddie suggested local adults consider the Circle of Courage as a helpful way of thinking about positive youth development. This model is based on the traditions of the Lakota peoples in North America and suggests that every young person needs to experience four things as they grow up: (1) a sense of belonging and identity; (2) a sense of competence and mastery; (3) a sense of independence and responsibility for making their own choices and living with the consequences; and (4) a sense of generosity and making a meaningful contribution to the world around them.   

Cycle-Centric City?

In response to a request from the 900 members of the cycling-stakeholder mailing list held by GDC, I made these comments: 

 – – – – – –

In my submission to the GDC Annual Plan earlier this year (before I had decided to stand for Council) I included the following recommendations:

Bi-cycling, Public Transport & Carbon Neutrality

Recommendation:

  • That GDC increase the number of cycle lanes and include space for bi-cycles on all road bridges in the city.
  • That GDC provide more incentives for people to use public transport and reduce reliance on private motor-vehicles within the city areas.
  • That GDC provide more incentives for people to use bi-cycles and horses for transport in rural townships.
  • That GDC adopt a goal of being a ‘Carbon Neutral’ region and develop an action plan to achieve this by 2012.
  • That GDC adopt a goal of being a ‘Carbon Neutral’ organisation and develop an action plan to achieve this by 2010.

Rationale:

The future of humanity and a number of other species is threatened with extinction if we do not change our behaviour and it is the responsibility of community leaders to demonstrate through their influence and decisions a commitment to a sustainable future for present and future generations.

– – – – – –  

Thinking about it a bit more, I should have added other rationale including:

  • the health benefits of cycling over car use from more physical and less sedentary activity;
  • the social benefits of cycling as an opportunity to meet neighbours and other commuters;
  • the economic benefits of being less dependent on oil, reduced road maintenance costs and reduced vehicle fuel/maintenance costs – and the increased ability of people to maintain their own transportation;
  • the environmental benefits of improved air quality, less noise pollution and a greener city overall.
  • the safety benefits of fewer accidents as cyclists have to contend with fewer ‘motorised missiles on wheels’.

I spoke to my submission in front of the full Council and when asked about these recommendations I talked about the danger I have experienced trying to negotiate Wainui Road and the Gladstone Road Bridge on bicycle – also some of the country roads could be made much safer for cyclists with a few simple measures like the “One metre bubble” warning signs that we see around Whakatane and other places that value the safety of cyclists.  

– – – – – – 

Q. Would you actively pursue policies that would enable utility cycling to develop along the lines that have made it the transportation mode of choice for so many in Copenhagen?

As shown above I have been advocating for these already and would be VERY interested in working with the ‘cycle lobby’ to access good quality research and case studies that make strong economic, environmental, social and health arguments for improving the region for cyclists.

Q. Would you lobby to rescind the law that compels cyclists to wear helmets in order to make it discretionary on the rider (as it is wherever utility cycling is well-established ) ?

I would like to read the research on how much protection helmets actually afford cyclists. I know for me, the incoinvenience of wearing a helmet is a significant disincentive to ride. On the other hand until we force cars to slow down or set and reach a goal of having at least 30% of traffic in the city by bicycle, it may be that helmets continue to protect cyclists from the dangers of inconsiderate, dangerous or absent-minded motorists.

Q. Would you give preference to a comprehensive network of cycle lanes over retaining the right to curbside parking?

Definitely.

Q. Would you lobby to rescind the law which prohibits cyclists from using pavements (at least as an interim measure for the years it will otherwise take to establish real separation from motorized vehicles)to enable ‘slow cyclists'(e.g.the elderly)to take up utility cycling?
 -Before you answer this question, next time you’re out driving, take note of how few pedestrians are actually using our pavements and keep in mind that there are places in the world where cyclists and pedestrians co-exist harmoniously in significantly greater numbers.

There are many opportunities for providing cycle ways on footpaths as they have in places like Tauranga and Wellington. I would be interested in learning more about the specific safety risks associated with this practice before saying yes I would lobby for to rescind the law. My only concern is the danger of vehicles reversing at speed from driveways, but the same danger is present whether the cyclist is on the road or footpath – just sometimes hedges and fences block drivers vision to the footpath and it is clearer by the time they get to the road.

Q. ‘Leaving it to the market to decide’ is not working as virtually none of New Zealand’s bicycle importers or retailers are taking the initiative to either promote or make available the types of bicycles and technologies which would make utility cycling practicable by a much broader range of people(e.g. the elderly ) or practical (e.g. for carrying children or shopping).

To ensure that fleets of utility bicycles become established throughout New Zealand’s urban areas, would you promote or support a campaign that will create awareness of utility cycling technologies among the public to help to stimulate consumer demand ?
e.g. actively lobby for the acquisition of a fleet of
utility bicycles for  council staff to get around town on.

Definitely. I would also support the establishment of neighbourhood bicycle workshops similar to the one my friends at 128 Abel Smith Street in Wellington provide. That way people can access specialised tools and replace parts from bicycles that are broken – it’s also a community-building opportunity in all sorts of ways .

Q. Would you lobby for the installation of bicycle racks on ALL public transport vehicles ?

Yes, I’m not sure why they don’t have them already!

Q. Do you cycle yourself? – And if not at this stage in your life, what would it take to get you to take up ‘utility’ cycling in the future ?

I own two bicycles, a Repco Victory Tri-A road bike that I bought off TradeMe. And a Healing Road/Mountain Bike that I got free with a video camera from Chris Fenn Appliances. I did a lot of riding a couple of years ago around the Poverty bay flats with my friend Dave Tims, and went on a few of the twilight bike rides with the club. Recently I haven’t been riding so much but having just got rid of one of our cars I am using the bike more. I also take my 5 year old daughter riding over on the courts/carpark at Te Poho o Rawiri Marae – she’s almost ready to loose the training wheels!

Q. Would you recommend that other people (children/ the elderly) cycle?

Definitely. I do have safety concerns for children – our neighbours kids wear fluoro jackets just to bike to school – they have to cross Wainui Rd. And my wife’s Uncle Dave is 80 years old and still rides his ten speed with turned up handle bars into town from Kaiti.

Do you care about the future of Gisborne?

I have been talking to lots of people lately about what kind of place we want Gisborne to be.

This is the kind of Gisborne that I want to live in :

–  GISBORNE as a model for the country and the world, demonstrating how people from different cultures can live together, accept each other and celebrate our ability to achieve great things as a united community

–  GISBORNE attracting world class scientists, artists, athletes and entrepreneurs who together create new knowledge, new understanding and new products for the benefit of people here and across the globe

–  GISBORNE developing carefully to ensure housing is affordable for both our elders and young families, where rates make up no more than 50% of Council income and debt is no longer a burden

–  GISBORNE as the most sustainable city in the world – producing safe high quality food, generating our own power and zero waste

–  GISBORNE people knowing our neighbours, feeling safe and taking pride in the quality of our relationships

If elected to Council I will work hard for the benefit of every person living in this region – regardless of race, gender, religion or socio-economic status.

In many ways I represent the future of this country. Within me I hold on to the best of my European and Maori heritage.

As a father, husband and self-employed businessman,  I know the importance of taking responsibility for myself and my family and for making a positive contribution to the community. I believe I have been a positive role model to other young people in our region.

Council needs to include a diverse range of people who understand the different communities that live and work in our district. I appreciate what is important to people with young families, so I have ideas about what is needed to get talented people to move back here.

People have said that I personify the potential of our region. I believe that every one of us have a crucial role to play – working together is the only way to realise the full potential of this great place we call home.

If you want people on Gisborne District Council who base their decisions on sound principles and good information, who can work well with a diverse range   of people and who are committed to a united community, then please help me make a real difference.

What about those of us who are NOT Maori?

As I have been talking to local residents over the past few weeks, a number of people have asked me this important question.

If elected to office I will work extremely hard for the benefit of every person living here – regardless of race, gender, religion or socio-economic status.

My mother is a fifth generation New Zealander. While our family has a rich history in this country as settlers and citizens, I am extremely proud of our deep roots in Scotland, Ireland and Spain.

I have been a strong advocate for Maori and young people – mostly because I think they get a raw deal sometimes and because unless we address some of the unmet needs that exist in our community, in 30 years time we will be in much the same place as we are today.

If Europeans had disproportionate rates of school failure, poor health and high crime rates – then I would be advocating for their rights and needs. Of course there are Europeans and other sectors of society who have real unmet needs – that is why I have been a strong advocate for children and young people – who don’t get a vote to choose the community leaders and who often ignored by decision-makers. Our elders, particularly those on the pension, people with disabilities and illness, single parents and people on low incomes all have significant needs that Council regularly overlook.

I believe we can get to a place where everyone has their basic needs met in this community – personal safety; affordable, healthy housing; and high quality education, employment and recreational opportunities.

As someone who understands both Maori and European worldviews, there have been many times when I have been able to bring diverse groups of people together, united under common values and working toward shared goals.

My wife and I are planning to living in the Gisborne region for the rest of our lives – this has to be the best place on Earth. We want to join with others and contribute in whatever small ways we can to making Gisborne even better!

What do I know?!

My wife and I are both 34 years old. We have two children. We both have bachelor degrees and post-graduate qualifications. We own two businesses and are involved in a wide range of local community organisations in addition to the marae committee, Kohanga Reo and the school our five year old daughter attends.

We are part of a demographic group that Gisborne needs to appeal to as a place to live and work.

Tarsh grew up around Tauwhareparae, Makarika and Kaiti. She left Gisborne during her last year at high school and went away to university. I grew up in Tauranga and did the same. We both ended up in Wellington and moved home 10 years ago to live with and care for Tarsh’s grandparents who raised her.

We understand what needs to change to make people like us want to move back to Gisborne to raise a family. We can count at least twenty outstanding individuals that we can claim some responsibility for influencing their decision to move to Gisborne over the past seven years.

I believe Council needs one or two people of my age and experience around the decision-making table. Some others need to move on!  

Working with teenagers for the last 15 years has given me a good insight into the way young people think about their future, their families, neighbourhoods and the wider community. I have recently been working with a local project that brings a group of elderly women and a group of teenage girls together regularly to learn from each other. This kind of interaction is what our community needs much more of and the positive outcomes flowing from these relationships will benefit generations to come. 

Living in a neighbourhood that even the pizza delivery people won’t come to has some good and not so good things about it. Every human being has an absolute right to personal safety and to know they are valued members of their community.

We all have contributions to make. Young people have idealism and energy, parents and working aged people provide social and economic security for the less enfranchised, people with physical and intellectual impairments teach all of us to appreciate whatever we have, elders provide their wisdom, knowledge and experience to guide the next generations. Maori and Pakeha share rich histories in this region, new immigrants bring fresh ideas and different ways of doing things that we can all benefit from if we value diversity and create an inclusive community.

As a self-employed researcher I like to have all the evidence before making a decision and I understand that there are pressures on this region that other areas of New Zealand do not experience as severely. I also recognise that for a large proportion of the world’s population, this place would be considered Paradise.

I was pleased to see the recent Rates Enquiry commissioned by central government recommended that rates make up no more than 50% of Council income. This signals some relief to rates rises as central government contributes more to costs incurred by local government. But the key I believe relies on us becoming more self-sufficient so that as a region we can rely less on external influences and develop the capacity and resources within the region to care for ourselves and make this the place we all know it has the potential to be.

For more information about my views on a wide range of issues visit my website: http://www.manu.org.nz (or invite me for dinner)

Top of my Wish List

Top of my wish-list for what I would like to see happen with Council support:

COMMUNITY PLANS developed with residents for every settlement and suburb that wants one (e.g. Te Araroa, Tokomaru Bay, Wainui/Okitu, Kaiti, Whataupoko, Mangapapa, Matawai, etc.). These would be facilitated by a steering group of local residents with support from Council staff and other stakeholders (e.g. runanga, government agencies, business owners, etc.).

Each plan would include:

  • a Community Profile including a history of the community, an overview of the local demographics (age, ethnicity, gender, income levels, etc.) of residents, economic, environmental, cultural and social profiles.
  • Special Features of the particular community (physical features, demographic trends, etc.)
  • Heritage Register summarising assets of historical significance within the community that should be protected, cared for and/or promoted.
  • Critical Issues for the community under headings such as: local economy; community development; public services, recreation and facilities; and infrastructure.
  • Community Goals documenting the aspirations of community members for their suburb/settlement.
  • an Action Plan identifying priority activities that will assist residents to realise the stated goals and aspirations, who will take leadership and supporting roles, what resources are required and timeframes for completion of each task.

Council planning staff should have a key role in facilitating this process but it may be more appropriate for local residents to lead or to engage an independent facilitator from another community to coordinate.

These plans would provide clear messages to Council about local priorities and aspirations so that Council plans support the opportunities identified in the specific community plans.

  

Council involvement in economic and community development

Councillors need to provide strategic leadership and decisions based on high quality information and long term goals that encourage wide understanding of and participation in the key drivers of economic wellbeing and community development.

Council staff have a facilitation role to increase cooperation within the region and advocacy capability and capacity on behalf of the region.

Council should be advocating for far more local accountability of public funds spent in the region but currently answerable only to Wellington.

The Council urgently needs a well considered policy statement and plan, developed in partnership with the community, for its role in Social Development. This could have a similar structure to the recently released Draft Economic Development Strategy (A Framework for Sustainable Prosperity) which provides an excellent overview of how Council can best contribute to ensuring a sustainable future for the region.

Maori participation in local government

I think to start with we need to move on from representation and into active participation – by all sectors of the community, not just Maori. GDC has never had the adequate skill base, quality of relationships and cultural capital within the organisation to engage with Tangata Whenua in a mutually meaningful way.

Recognising the value to every local resident from real participation by Maori in decision-making is an important first step. Councillors and staff need to understand why this is important today and how critical it is for ensuring a positive future of the region.

Appreciating the essential relationship between Maori and local government will lead to employment of staff with different skills and an increased ability by Council to engage in ways that help make the organisation more relevant and responsive to Maori. Which will ultimately improve life for Maori and the rest of the community will benefit greatly as a result.

Gisborne Young People

Four years ago I helped organise the largest number of submissions on a single issue that Council received for the 10 year Long Term Council Community Plan. It basically asked Council to acknowledge only one thing – that young people are full citizens of our community. In the end only one line in the LTCCP referred to young people and it was silent on the recommendations made in the submissions.

Council does not need to provide facilities or events for young people as much as it needs to be asking itself how young people are thinking about and relating to their communities, how young people are organising themselves and under what circumstances young people are prepared to commit to the wellbeing and development of this region.

Rekindling intergenerational relationships are critical at this time – but those relationships must be based on mutual respect and appreciation of each others gifts and limitations.

I recently attended a planning meeting organised by GDC that considered what Gisborne would look like in 30 years time. There were less than five people aged under 30 years in a room of over 60 people. If young people are not actively involved in planning the future of the region now, they will have no ownership of the developments that occur and will join the masses leaving instead of contributing to a better future for all of us.

Infrastructure Priorities

– renewable and secure energy generation (electricity and fuel)

– safe, secure and affordable drinking water

– safe, healthy and affordable housing

– decent public transport, cycle-ways and pedestrian-friendly corridors

– robust flood and erosion protection

– well maintained roads

Mark Cabaj

“When the structure of an agent’s world is changing rapidly, unexamined assumptions are likely to be out of date, and the actions based on them ineffective.”
Lane & Maxfield

I enjoyed the recent visit to Gisborne by Mark Cabaj of the Tamarack Institute in Canada. Mark spoke passionately about the challenges of working on complex community issues and provided some practical solutions on ways to approach these situations.

Mark’s report on his isit to New Zealand including a range of resources is available here: mark_cabaj.pdf 

Respecting Our Elders

Our society must make it right and possible for old people not to fear the young or be deserted by them, for the test of a civilization is the way that it cares for its most vulnerable members. Pearl S. Buck (1892-1973)

I love this quote and I plan to make it a reality.  

Our society is fragmented and disconnected in many ways. Over the past 50 years a stark division has emerged in many families and communities between younger and older members. 

Before World War II the notion of a ‘youth’ population was unheard of (let alone ‘youth culture’ or ‘youth sub-cultures’) – that was because young people were expected to participate in the economic, cultural and social life of their family. Clear rites of passage existed in every society to mark the movement of a child to an adult. Now we have this strange transitional period where young people are no longer children and not yet adults – they exist in a confusing social vacuum that presents all sorts of contradictory messages – and we wonder why they misbehave!

The inter-generational transfer of knowledge, language and values has never been so poor than it is today. An unhealthy obsession with material wealth and status pervades the value systems of many young people thanks in large part to the influence of commercial culture and global communications media.

Reconnecting young people to their parents and grandparents is one of the most important challenges facing our community – passing on the best values of our elders is an essential component of any healthy society. Practical skills and activities such as growing, preparing and preserving food, passing on traditions and family stories that connect with our past and future generations must be a priority for everyone.

I make a point now of asking my parents about such things at every opportunity – and I love sitting in the presence of elders who are willing to share their wisdom with someone as naive and ignorant as myself.

What are some examples of this inter-generational connectedness that you have experienced recently?