Letter to the Editor – Endless Summer or Last of the Summer Wine?

gisborne

Recent Statistics NZ projections that Gisborne is likely to have a lower population in 20 years time should come as no surprise. That we are likely to have the fourth highest rate of population decline should be concerning and something everyone in the region is committed to reversing.

I’m yet to see a clearly articulated strategy for attracting people to relocate themselves, their families and business to our great region.

The first place to start would be with the upwardly mobile young people who grew up and left to study, work and/or explore the world. One such young man recently contacted me from Queenstown and said he would love to live in Gisborne again. He thought more young people and families would choose to make the move if the following things were addressed:

  1. providing low cost, reliable access to high quality broadband and mobile coverage across the whole district;
  2. cheaper transport by air and rail in and out of the region;
  3. enhancements to lifestyle amenities like recreation facilities, cafes and entertainment options;
  4. promotion of the relatively low cost of land and houses in the region.

I would add to the list a proper analysis of the benefits of doing business in the Gisborne region compared to Auckland, Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty. This analysis would include the cost of labour, rental comparisons for offices and warehouse space, road use intensity, port charges and education profiles.

It is encouraging to see the “Endless Summer” brochure going into Air New Zealand planes over the next three months, but I can’t help thinking this needs to be connected into a much longer and more strategic plan to carefully position the regional profile with potential residents and visitors. Such a strategy could be something that all of us understand and support for the future of this place we call home.

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:

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)

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.

Sufficiency

As Gandhi said “The world has enough resources for everyone’s needs, but not everyones greed.”  The principle of sufficiency in incompatible with the principle of infinite wealth accumulation that defines the dominant economic system we exist within. Gisborne is blessed with a great climate, smart people and amazing historical, cultural and natural resources. Most people in the world would consider we live in paradise – most of us do not celebrate this enough. We need to have careful discussions about the future and what level of external influence we want to permit in this region. Do we have enough? Do we need any more? Can we become more self-sufficent and satisfied with less?

Local Ownership

All members of any community are experts and leaders in their own right. We are all followers as well. As both teachers and learners we have a right and responsibility to contribute to any decision that impact on us and future generations. If people do not feel they are involved in a decision or the process leading up the decision being made, they will feel no ownership of the consequences and blame decision-makers for a bad decision (seldomn acknowledging good decisions!). We need to move forward together as a region – different ages, genders, cultures and classes need to find common ground if we want sustainable development to be realised.

Sustainability

Mokopunatanga is the practice of considering the impacts of our lifestyles and everyday decisions on future generations. We haven’t been very good at this over the past few generations. We must plan now to ensure our grandchildren and great-great-great grandchildren inherit a planet that is in better condition than what we have now. These are conversations we must have today – we cannot afford to wait any longer as evidence builds of pending environmental collapse and communities are already being affected in adverse ways. 

Forestry 1

Current Council and business planning relies too much on forestry to ensure future economic security for the region. Putting all our eggs in one basket is a high risk strategy, whether that is in growing, harvesting and exporting logs or in value added production.

The other problem with this approach is that the bulk of value added and wealth created leaves the region as the wood does. Foreign owned companies take their profits offshore (often to reinvest in commodity and currency speculation that does no favours to the national economy).

The potential of Manuka and other native species is only just starting to be realised and much more investment should be going into these kinds of options that are both economically and environmentally more responsible.

Regional Economic Development

I am committed to strengthening the local economy by reducing our reliance on goods and services from outside the region and encouraging a stable and sustainable economy.

Strategies designed to reduce personal, household and public debt and supporting entrepreneurial activity should be encouraged. Big box retailers, foreign-owned banks and other businesses that strip resources out of the local economy could be challenged as residents increase their financial literacy and commitment to productive sector and a sustainable economy.

Regional welfare reform should be supported that strengthens labour regulations, increases access to quality training opportunities and provides a universal minimum income while reducing long-term access to the unemployment benefit.

An exploration on developing an alternative regional economy based either on the establishment of a local currency or increased non-monetary exchange of goods and services should be encouraged.