Committee Decision-Making

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The Environment and Policy Committee meeting I attended this week was a great example of how slack politicians can increase social problems.

Last month the Committee was presented with a paper advising them that the Law Commission is undertaking a review of alcohol legislation and the issue has considerable impact on our local communities.

The Committee agreed that a public meeting would be hosted by GDC to workshop the issues with interested people including representatives from owners of liquor outlets, health services,  Police, community workers, Council staff and whoever else was interested.

Pat Seymour and Andy Cranston were the only two Councillors to attend the workshop along with the other people mentioned above. The meeting over two hours was based on good information, followed by healthy debate that arrived at consensus on each one of many points ensuring Council staff drafting the submission had confidence that the process had been open and thorough.

People attending the meeting used the Law Commission’s 280 page discussion document that presents the hard facts as the starting point for commentary on the issues. Local examples were used to back up the evidence presented in the discussion document and it was hard to find any situations that contradicted the document’s findings.

A submission based on the agreements reached at the workshop was presented back to the Committee this week at which four of the six members decided to vote against the submission.

Only one of the four Councillors objecting had her copy of the Discussion Document present and based on their comments and criticisms it seemed obvious that either two or three of the other Councillors had not even read the document. Those Councillors that had not read the Discussion Document, had also not participated in the public workshop and had not contacted staff after they received the draft submission to discuss any matters of concern. As a result of their problems with the submission the Councillors were allowed to have a private session with staff the next day to take out the parts of the submission they were not happy with.

With due respect to Councillor Seymour, who has shown great leadership on this issue and who has had to deal with poor behaviour from the majority in this case, I don’t think the outcome was the best we could have had and the community has been let down again by those making important decisions on our behalf.

The problem I have with this kind of process is that it rewards laziness and arrogance amongst some Councillors. As a result, the majority of Committee Members (who did not take up the opportunities to participate in an agreed process) have dictated that a much watered-down submission is going to be put before the full Council for their consideration one day before the deadline for submissions. While the GDC submission is only one of hundreds, it should have been able to promote well considered options that do justice to the level of concern our community has about access to and use of alcohol, particularly amongst young people – and now it will not.

I hope more members of the public find an hour or two to sit in on one of these meetings and reflect on the quality of decisions that are being made on our behalf. I believe we can do much better than what we have at present.

Young people want a voice

District Council meetings are not known to attract a great amount of attention from teenagers, yet tomorrow’s council meeting is drawing the attention of more than a dedicated few.
The ability for young people to contribute to local decision making will be debated at tomorrow’s Gisborne District Council meeting, following a recommendation that the council move to appoint a youth council.
This report recommends that council agree to appoint Tairawhiti Youth Voice (TYV) to be the youth council. TYV is an established group of young people with 23 signed members that operates throughout the Tairawhiti region with three local councils in Gisborne, Tolaga Bay and Ruatoria.
The group was originally set up to function as a youth council, but so far has had no formal recognition. “Our number one motivation isn’t skating, or running events, or even getting young people jobs”, says TYV member Vaughan Smith. “It’s about working with other young people, listening to their views and making decisions that consider the needs of all people, not just those who can vote”.
Despite the fact that approximately 46 councils around New Zealand have youth councils attached, the GDC has lagged behind in supporting one in Tairawhiti. At 39%, the Gisborne region has one of the highest proportions of people aged under the age of 25.
The proposal does not give any voting ability to the youth council, but rather is to establish them officially as a consultative body, that can be used by GDC in a formal way to provide a youth perspective on any issues that come before council.
Tairawhiti Youth Voice member, Andy Crowe, understands the unique challenges for young people to participate, “We’re not aware of the processes, we’re not aware of how to make our voices heard. We’re used to adults telling us what to do instead of dreaming up ways to make a difference. Young people need to be fairly represented, and what better way to recognise the voice of young people, than through young people”.
Crowe, who also works as a supervisor at the Alfred Cox Skate Park, has seen youth participation work in practice. “Last year, at the skate park, when we asked young people what they thought of the set-up they were really keen to give input into things that they were a part of”, says Crowe. “They were able to figure out amongst themselves ways of resolving differences and deciding on the best solution and finding the resources to make it happen”.
The staff report to Council suggests costs of establishing a youth council will be minimal, as formalising the current relationship with TYV will be far more affordable than starting a Youth Council from scratch. The ongoing costs of supporting a youth council will not be directly related to this decision, but will impact somewhat on the body’s effectiveness. TYV could also reduce some off the consultation costs that are currently born by council staff.
“This recommendation is the result of petitions and submissions over many years on the issue and it has been made possible following the establishment and development of Tairawhiti Youth Voice over the past 18 months and further submissions to the 10 Year Plan this year” said Manu Caddie who first proposed such a structure to Council in 1998. “It recognises the Council’s need for a more enduring solution to the issue of youth participation in local decision-making and it is pleasing to see the positive shift in Councillor’s opinions on the issue over the past few years.”
The decision is expected to receive strong debate, particularly from Councillors who prefer a more streamlined governance model. TYV member Vaughan Smith, for one, is unsure of the reaction that council will have. “We’ve been working really hard to establish ourselves as a group that finds out what young people want. What we’re about to find out, is does the Council want to listen?”
The report is expected to be discussed by the full council on Thursday morning at around 10:15. The meeting is open to the public and is held at the Gisborne District Council on Fitzherbert St.

Local Government Act Review

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Mr Hide should probably stick to dancing. There are certainly some problems with the current system but his proposed changes to the Local Government Act would ironically create more centralisation, bigger bureaucracy, less efficiencies and more complex problems both nationally and at a local level.

Rather than saying local authorities should stay away from social development, what we actually need is local control over central government resources. When funds are managed from Wellington at best we get a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to addressing local social, economic and environmental issues.

We need to develop a vision for local government that is just that, local accountability and local responsibility for addressing our own issues here. To do this we need to reduce the control central government has over our taxes and bring the decision-making back here where we know what we need and how best to create positive change that is durable and effective.

A good example is the gangs issue. Last year we had senior officials from Police and the Ministry of Social Development convene a meeting of community stakeholders to discuss the issue of gangs in Gisborne. The meeting was held, people presented their concerns and solutions and we have heard nothing since. The managers who convened the meeting (and have both since left their respective roles) are accountable to senior officials in Wellington who hold the public purse strings. And we have no way to make them do their job while families in our neighbourhoods continue to suffer!

The Tairawhiti Development Partnership is a good idea in terms of local governance between councils and iwi authorities. Unfortunately the Partnership has never realised its potential in terms of social and economic development, mostly because it has little if any say over central government resourcing. This resourcing is tied up in nationally designed programmes and new initiatives that are ‘announced’ every year to keep politicians looking like they do something useful. Councils don’t have to provide services, but by coordinating central government investment in the region in partnership with iwi authorities they can ensure resources are being directed to where the need is greatest And, in this way, they can ensure that real change is happening.

Developing a set of locally agreed outcomes about what kind of place we want to live in and what kind of change needs to happen for that vision to be realised, is an important function of local government, including iwi authorities. However, we are yet to see an inclusive process used to identify a local vision and as a result have not got a clear set of outcomes we all ‘own’ as a community. This is largely because local authorities haven’t had the capacity, capability or commitment to facilitate the kind of whole community processes required. The Tairawhiti Development Taskforce got close when it was initially set-up but quickly retreated to a small group that has not maintained meaningful communication with the wider community about what they are doing and why.

I agree with Mr Hide that there is a need for a clearer delineation of central and local government roles. Central government should resource local authorities to build local knowledge about local needs and priorities and then assign resources to address new and existing needs as determined by local authorities. Members of the Gisborne District Council should be thinking very carefully about what they would like our Chief Executive Officer and Local Government New Zealand to be saying during the public-excluded consultation process and should invite public comment on the issue before the Department of Internal Affairs undertake the consultation.

Do we want to see our water, library and parks privatised? I think not. Do we want to be told by Wellington policy analysts and funding managers what we need here? I think not. Do we want to take responsibility for local issues locally? I think so.

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:

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.

  

Rates Recommendations

The recently released independent report commissioned by central government makes 96 recommendations on rates reform. These are some of the suggestions I like the look of: 

  • While rates should remain the main source of funding for local government, they should be no more than 50 per cent of total revenues, the inquiry recommended.
  • Greater funding is recommended from central government
  • Making Crown-owned locations like polytechnics, hospitals and schools pay rates
  • More user-pays policies on things like water (especially for industry/commercial purposes), roading (especially traffic that does the most damage to roads), and building consents
  • The abolition of fixed charges currently incorporated in rates bills
  • Maori-owned land rating valuations should be changed
  • The Resource Management Act and Building Act were noted as factors that had required a rise in council staff levels.

I think the key issue Tairawhiti should be working on with central government is accessing additional funding to support our unique needs as a low population, high deprivation, geographically large and isolated region.

GDC has of course recently turned down funding offered by central government ($270,000 for crime prevention projects offered in 2006, and $30,000 in 2004 for a regional youth development project).

The Purpose of Council & My Reasons for Standing

The purpose of Gisborne District Council, according to the legislation that governs it, is:

(a) to enable democratic local decision-making and action by, and on behalf of, communities; and

(b) to promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities, in the present and for the future.

What a great statement!

However I am not convinced the people previously elected to Council have understood or taken seriously the full responsibilities of local government.  

See here for more details.

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I am standing for Council for a wide range of reasons including:

– the many encouragements (and occasionally direct orders!) that I have received from people in our community to do so over many years;

– an absolute belief in local solutions to local problems (even when they are caused by external influences);

– my commitment to sustainable community development, active citizenship, economic security, environmental protection and the value of cultural diversity;

– a sense of responsibility to the generations who have gone before us and worked so hard to make this region one of the greatest places to live on the whole planet;

– my children and the future we are creating for them and generations to come.

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.

EIL & ECT

I generally support the direction of the Trust. It has recently made a commitment to being more transparent in terms of priorities and various business interests, this should increase the level of confidence the community can have in the governance group and activities.

I support EIL’s investment in local infrastructure as this protects essential services from being controlled by overseas interests and ensures any profits at the end of the day are retained locally. The local ownership of essential infrastructure, the ongoing dividends reinvested in the community by the Trust and the capital asset finally paid to GDC are all critical to the future of the region and should not be divested to Council .  

I would like to see greater investment in wind, tridal, micro-hydro and solar energy generation as well as commitments to bio-fuels and waste elimination opportunities.

 

Here is a summary of my position on ECT at present:

  • I am in favour of local ownership of essential infrastructure (electricity generation and distribution, drinking water, roads, sewage systems, airport, port, etc.). I don’t like the idea of it being privatised, particularly if that meant interests outside of the region controlled it.
  • I am also in favour of user pays above a basic level for residents (and possibly not-for-profits).
  • I support the Trust’s moves to make their processes much more transparent and to communicate more openly and regularly with the community.
  • I understand the purpose of the Trust is to retain and grow the asset base of the Trust to make money that is subsequently invested in the region (in both commercial and non-commercial projects).
  • I have reservations about the Trust investing in businesses that compete with other local businesses
  • I think the Trust should help GDC pay off public debt but do not think it should contribute any more than 25% of existing cash reserves – the Trust should continue to build reserves through investments both within and outside of the region.
  • They need at least one Trustee who is a demonstrated advocate for community development, whether or not they have as much financial management experience as the rest of the Trustees, they should take responsibility for ensuring the Trustees make decisions based on good information about priority local needs.   

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 

GDC Social Policy 2 – Community House / Community Participation in Policy Making

I would like to commend Cnr Bauld on his (recent) position that says Council need to take some local leadership in coordinating social development efforts in the region. I would also like to acknowledge that other Councillors and many people in the community have been saying the same thing for many years.  

A Community House is one, but not necessarily the most important or effective, way of taking some leadership on the complex issues involved in this area.  The ‘redundancies and inefficiencies’ in the sector that Cnr Bauld talks about are not ‘obvious to all of us’ and need to be articulated clearly and agreed upon by key stakeholders (funders, providers, Council and users of services) before effective action can be undertaken to address the causes of the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness of the current systems and structures that exist.   

The GDC Social Policy statement should be the document guiding this kind of conversation – but unfortunately the one that was adopted does not help at all. It had inadequate (read: almost no) input from stakeholders in its design (purpose, content and structure) and its contents are not particularly useful in determining how Council should take local leadership in this area – in fact by imposing the agenda of a few individuals, Council may have pre-determined the parameters of the policy. I hope this is not the case.

 I recommend that the Community Development Committee lead a much wider discussion within the community about what role Council should have in social development and a review of the new Social Policy be undertaken with wide community input before the end of the year.   

Manu Caddie

1 August 2007

Sewage Solution 2

It was disappointing to hear today that a GDC committee voted only non-Maori Councillors on to the Working Group for the Waste Water Project. Such a move demonstrates very little commitment from the majority of Councillors to meaningful Tangata Whenua involvement in decision-making and community leadership.

Real progress and agreement on the issue made this year was the result of true partnership and effective negotiation – rather than the bullying and exclusion which led to protracted litigation against GDC over the past 15 years.

Why I am standing for Council

I am absolutely committed to working with others to build a community where everyone can reach their full potential and no one is left out.

Over the past ten years in Gisborne I have led projects and organisations that have strengthened relationships between individuals, families, neighbours, organisations and communities.

Local government must provide real leadership by working together, with the full involvement of the community, to tackle the complex problems our region faces. When people have meaningful participation in decisions that affect their lives, they also have ownership of the outcomes.

I support the development of a common vision for the region that ensures it is safe, affordable and healthy for young and old to live in this unique place we call home.

In 2001 I joined with a group of neighbours to establish KaPai Kaiti. This residents association is a bunch of volunteers who want to make their community an even better place to live and are willing to do whatever it takes to realise their goals. Through my involvement with this group I have seen the positive change that is possible when a community is involved in leading its own development.

From 2002-2005 I worked with Lytton High School to establish Te Whare Whai Hua, the school for teenage parents and an Early Childhood Education Centre for their children. The young mothers who have been through Te Whare Whai Hua inspire me with their commitment to personal development and the wellbeing of their children. Most of these students have gone on to further training, university education and/or employment – all have become better caretakers of the next generation.

Through these two simple but powerful examples of local solutions to local problems we have experienced the power of community-led sustainable growth and transformation. We have also seen how Council can actively block community attempts to move ahead. 

Gisborne District Council needs inspired leadership that is connected to ALL sectors of the community. I hope to be part of making this goal our reality.
 
 
  

Tauwhareparae Farms Ltd

The debate on whether GDC should retain or sell TFL seems to go something like this:

FOR selling:  

  • Council should not be in the business of running farms.
  • The dividend expected for 2007 is only 50% of the $1.5m projected in the LTCCP.
  • Freeing up the capital tied up in the farms could pay off Council debt which costs millions each year – and fund priority infrastructure developments (such as the waste-water upgrade).
  • GDC debt levels are very close to the maximum allowed and should be brought down by sale of public assets.
  • The farms may be worth over $40m and the level of return on the investment value are not commercially prudent. 
  • If the original $25 million, which was the valuation at the time the council last considered selling the farm, had been invested in secured interest-bearing deposits earning 7.5 percent, the compound effect of this investment would have generated a fund today of $36 million, with interest earnings this year of $2.7 million.
  • Any funds realised could be placed in an investment account or community trust to avoid being ‘frittered away’.
  • TFL was ‘independently’ valued at $45.6m in 2006.

AGAINST selling: 

  • The $750,000 dividend paid this year is in line with what was predicted in 2003 when the Farms were restrucutred.
  • The farms cannot be sold until the Jodi F Millenium outcome is finalised.
  • If they could be sold now the banks would demand the first cut so the actual amount available for investing in priority infrastructure developments would be a fraction of the gross amount realised from the sale.
  • The farms only attracted bids of around $20m when tendered previously so the returns as a proportion of investment are actually not as bad as detractors claim.  
  • Any money raised from the sales could be ‘frittered away’ by undisciplined Council decisions.

Another proposal is to sell a part of the farm asset – or break it up into smaller, but still viable farms. 

Here’s an article from 2003 detailing Bill Busby’s plans for Tauwhareparae Farms: www.country-wide.co.nz/article/748.html 

Tangata Whenua Participation

From my submission on the 2007 Draft Annual Plan & LTCCP Review…

Recommendations:

–  That GDC undertake a feasibility study that explores various options for increasing Tangata Whenua participation in decision-making at all levels of the organisation.

– That a discussion document is circulated in the community requesting feedback, particularly from Maori, on the most effective options for increasing Tangata Whenua participation.

– That GDC, in consultation with Tangata Whenua representatives from hapu and iwi in the District adopt the most popular options supported by feedback from Tangata Whenua.

Rationale:

The existing provisions for Tangata Whenua deputations at committee meetings and a Maori Liaison Officer are grossly inadequate mechanisms for supporting positive, constructive and meaningful participation by Tangata Whenua in decision-making processes. The legacy of colonisation and settler society provide ample evidence of manifold injustices that have taken place when Tangata Whenua have not been involved in a meaningful way with decisions made by those with positions of regulatory power.

GDC Planning & Consultation Processes

From my submission on the 2007 Annual Plan & LTCCP Review… 

Recommendations:

– That GDC review it’s planning and consultation process through a survey of residents that identifies how much knowledge, interest and confidence district residents, especially Maori, young people and new immigrants, have relating to GDC planning and consultation processes.

– That GDC include a community education and civics programme designed by experts in the field of community engagement in its activities under the ‘cost of democracy’ budget line to increase awareness and understanding of obligations, mandates and responsibilities of local government.

– That GDC rename the ‘Cost of Democracy’ budget line to a more appreciative title such as ‘Commitment to Democracy’ or ‘Community Participation in Decision-Making Processes’.

– That GDC publicise the number of submissions received on the Annual Plan and the demographics of submitters with comment on the implications of these results from a local government perspective.

– That GDC provide at least two weeks notice of a date and proposed time to hear the submission from those submitters who wish to be heard – not two days as has been the case with some processes previously.

Rationale:

The planning and consultation processes used by GDC have limited legitimacy if they do include wide participation by all sectors of the community. Recent research by Massey University (Cheyne, 2007) demonstrates that low participation in local government planning and ‘consultation’ processes cannot be assumed to be a signal of satisfaction with the performance, direction and/or activities of the local body. It is more often a case of lack of awareness and understanding of the role and responsibilities of local government and the potential impact of local government decisions, commitments or omissions.

1. Improve the quality of debate and decision-making within Council.

At present the Councillors spend a lot of time discussing details of activities that should really not be their concern. Council is about governance – not micro-management.

As a region we are not going to be able to sustainably address the social, economic, cultural and environmental challenges that face us if we do not understand the issues properly.

Intelligent debate and robust decision-making requires good information, focusing on the right questions and creating solutions together that the whole community can own.

Adversarial relationships are incredibly unproductive – we need leaders who can unite around an agreed common vision for the region, a clear set of goals and expected outcomes within realistic timeframes.

Councillors across the political spectrum are encouraging me to stand – Craig Bauld, Margret Thorpe, Brian Wilson, Atareta Poananga, Nona Aston, Kathy Sheldrake and Hemi Hikawai have all given me advice, encouragement and support to stand for Council.

Here are some comments from existing Councillors in response to my decision to stand for Council:

“Manu Caddie and I disagree on almost everything, but that doesn’t matter – what’s important is that Council gets a range of intelligent, thoughtful, hard-working, and committed people who want to make this a better community – and Manu is all of those things. I have a lot of respect for him and I believe he’d make an excellent councillor”. – Craig Bauld

“GO FOR IT ! – I have always admired the way you research and present FACTS. I would be happy to get the odd phone call from you, as I believe in some ways we were on the same track – especially in the Kaiti area.” – Margret Thorpe

“I am pleased to  support Manu as a candidate for Gisborne District Council. He has made so much difference to many lives in his community. His devotion to family and his values encompass much that is needed in our region.” – Nona Aston-Gaskin

“I support new people standing for Council especially younger people. It is a healthy sign for our community and shows democracy is alive and well in Tairawhiti”. – Kathy Sheldrake

 

 

2. Improve the quality of relationships between the Council and stakeholders.

GDC needs to develop much better systems for engaging the communities it serves. Many groups within our region have very little interest in Council plans and activities.

This is not because they don’t care, but rather because they do not know what Council does and how they can contribute to improve decision-making and ownership of those decisions.

Appropriate mechanisms for engaging every sector of our society (including children and young people) need to be developed if our region is to move forward together.

3. Increase the political, economic and cultural influence of our region in a way that reflects our local aspirations.

The Tairawhiti region is a unique place that has produced many world firsts and consistently excels in innovation and high performance in business, cultural and sporting arenas.

What we have lacked to date is local leadership that can use these strengths to capitalise on opportunities within the region and at national and international levels. I see huge potential in Gisborne being a model for sustainable economic, cultural and social development that the world will look to.

 

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.