Reinventing Tourism

The impact Covid-19 will have on the tourism sector is understandably under significant scrutiny.

Around 230,000 people have been directly employed in tourism, that’s just over 8 percent of the entire New Zealand workforce.

International tourists spent $17.2 billion last year and over five million arrivals were expected this year. International tourism contributed just over 20 percent to New Zealand’s total overseas earnings, and been the largest earner along with dairy for the last 20 years. Tourism generated a direct contribution to GDP of nearly 6 percent and indirect value from industries supporting tourism generated another $11.2 billion.

In the past 20 years Tairāwhiti has on average attracted only half of one percent of these international tourists vising New Zealand.

In contrast, spending by domestic tourists across New Zealand was nearly $24 billion last year, nearly 40 percent more than international visitors spent.

Compared to most other regions, MBIE figures suggest tourists in Tairāwhiti spend has a much higher proportion on supermarkets and fuel while other regions see more spend on restaurants and bars, accommodation and passenger transport.

Australia has said they probably will not allow foreign visitors for the rest of the year, and we can expect something similar here that could result in at least 100,000 tourism jobs lost and the subsequent flow on effect to supporting industries.

Five years ago New Zealanders were spending about $10 billion on overseas travel and New Zealand was earning just over this amount from inbound tourists. While a good proportion of New Zealanders’ overseas travel is for business, the majority is for holidays and that most of that spend is now likely to be spent domestically. Tairāwhiti has always had a much higher proportion of domestic visitors than those from overseas and once we’re back to Level 2 we can expect a surge in domestic tourists compared to any previous years.

Local tourism infrastructure has always been very limited in our region and that is part  of the attraction for visitors who want to go somewhere off the beaten track, away from the more polished and pricey tourist attractions of places like Rotorua, Queenstown and Auckland.

Accommodation options north of Gisborne are few and far between but it should not be difficult to quickly increase the number and range of accommodation to suit low, medium and high end budgets. Quickly developing an increased hospitality workforce may be a much bigger challenge.

The big opportunity I believe exists in quite a different kind of visitor experience to what we think tourists usually look for.

If set up right, Tairāwhiti has the opportunity to create a whole new class of domestic visitor experience, one that is based on deeper, lasting relationships rather than just catering to fly by nighters. By offering experiences that provide an authentic, long-term relationship between hosts and visitors we can encourage longer stays and more repeat visitors. We can also harness some of the skills and networks these visitors bring with them.

One community in the region has been doing something similar for more than ten years, every Labour Weekend between 30 and 100 visitors come into the village and reconnect with locals, help with a community project and enjoy authentic East Coast hospitality.

Another East Coast community has facilitated exchanges between young people in Wellington and the Coast for many years. The idea is to bridge the cultural and experience gaps between urban and rural New Zealand.

These kinds of deeper visitor experiences are mutually beneficial, offer more than just foreign exchange earnings for our communities and provide a unique point of difference that other regions will struggle to match.

Prioritising Sci+Tech in Post-Covid Planning

A survey on 30 March of 317 Chief Financial Officers across a broad range of industries revealed that three quarters of the companies plan to permanently move some of their staff to working remotely. This kind of change represents huge opportunities for a region like Tairāwhiti that still has comparatively low housing costs (though a real housing shortage), a relaxed pace of life and reasonable year round climate.

We’ve seen a number of technology-based companies relocate to the region in the last few years, and many more could be persuaded to establish offices in Tairāwhiti if central and local agencies can look beyond logs.

In 2014 Tairāwhiti had the Gigatown prize snatched away by some last minute rejigging of the rules and Dunedin got 53,000 homes and businesses subsidised with cheap gigabit connections. While we might argue about how transformative a similar outcome for our region might have been, the real tragedy is that the comprehensive digital plan hundreds of Tairāwhiti residents and organisations contributed to designing was in the bin within a month and never to be heard of again.

A few of the initiatives that were already happening have carried on but for all intents and purposes, the plan –  which largely didn’t rely on the gigabit subsidy – has been forgotten and barely mentioned since.

A year later in 2015, the Government sought proposals for Regional Research Institutes, designed to inject research and technical capability into regions that don’t host a university. Similar to the Gigatown effort, an impressive array of Tairāwhiti businesses, local authorities and education organisations scrambled together, partnered with a group of universities and pulled together a great proposal. When Tairāwhiti didn’t get short-listed, the plan was likewise abandoned and probably never looked at again.

Successive governments have promised tens of millions to Tairāwhiti, mostly for roads and forestry-related projects – much of the cash never materialises as bureaucratic processes delay pay outs, the region can’t spend it fast enough and/or the funds get reprioritised in the next budget or election cycle.

Living near Ruatorea for the last five years, I’ve spoken with quite a few students, whanau and educators who desperately want more employment options than roading and forestry. According to Statistics NZ, science and technology is now the largest sector of the top ten contributors to GDP and agriculture is the smallest, just below retail. When I was born in 1972, agriculture was at the top of the list of ten sectors and retail was at number two.

As governments and local authorities around the world start planning for a cautious return to the new normal of post-lockdown society, the city of Amsterdam is working closely with British economist Kate Raworth who replaced economic orthodoxy with a model of the economy as a donut.

The inner ring of Raworth’s donut sets out the minimum we need to lead a good life, derived from the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. It ranges from food and clean water to a minimum level of housing, sanitation, energy, education, healthcare, gender equality, income and political voice. Anyone without access to these minimum standards is living in the doughnut’s hole.

The outer ring of the doughnut represents the ecological ceiling drawn up by earth-system scientists. It highlights the boundaries across which communities should not go to avoid damaging the climate, soils, water bodies and biodiversity.

As Tairāwhiti business, political and community leaders consider options for local initiatives to recalibrate the regional economy, hopefully with central government support, let’s ensure science and technology are prioritised – both to inform the shape of our current donut, and to help design an evidence-based recipe for truly sustainable employment opportunities.

 

Mixed Fortunes

Sunrise in the windows of an 100 year old building in Tokomaru Bay on the morning the Mixed Fortunes report was released. #metaphor

Sunrise in the windows of an 100 year old building in Tokomaru Bay on the morning the Mixed Fortunes report was released. #metaphor

Community leaders scrambling to defend the region in light of the Salvation Army report yesterday was understandable but a bit disappointing.

I’m not sure why anyone was surprised that Northland and Gisborne top the country for all the worst statistics – it’s been that way for a few generations now. Shooting the messenger – before even reading the message – shows both a lack of confidence in the region and credibility as a commentator.

If we look behind the numbers in the report it is completely understandable that Gisborne stands out – we have a very low population compared to other regions and lower average income and higher Māori population. Wellington, Auckland and even Tauranga have communities facing similar challenges to Gisborne but their regional statistics look better because they have higher proportions of the community with higher incomes and there are more employment opportunities in big centres. Māori are still recovering from the impacts of colonisation and it will take some time and better efforts from everyone before Māori health, justice, education and employment statistics are equal with the rest of the population.

Urban migration from rural communities to metropolitan centres is a global phenomenon as small family farms become marginal in the face of industrialised agri-business. Increasing profits by using machines instead of more costly human labour has been the point of business since the industrial revolution. And we wonder why we have an unemployment problem?

I think the report is really helpful and we should be thanking the Salvation Army for helping draw attention to the issues again.

A local yesterday said “the Salvation Army doesn’t know Gisborne”, those kinds of comments show that there are people in Gisborne who don’t really know Gisborne.

I was pleased to hear a couple of councillors have invited the report author to come to Gisborne for a discussion about the report findings and recommendations.

The recommendation to develop national sustainability goals to ensure the progress of all regions should also be taken up at a local level. Unfortunately there seems to be little sense of urgency within the local institutions that have the mandate and resources to influence significant change:

  • Gisborne District Council continues to excuse itself from any meaningful leadership in terms of truly sustainable development. Other councils have at least developed useful regional progress measures that help identify where more attention and resources are required to affect meaningful change.
  • Tairawhiti District Health Board seems to understand some of the issues but is hamstrung by central government priorities, high salaries for some medical staff and limited funds having to stretch further each year.
  • Eastland Community Trust and iwi authorities have limited mandates and capabilities at present but they do have ambitious vision, significant capital and opportunities to marshal additional support.
  • Activate Tairawhiti has a big mandate but no resources to do anything other than organise meetings.
  • Local offices of central government agencies are driven by their bosses in Wellington rather than local priorities.

Likewise we need a local plan to meet the challenges of an aging population, resource scarcity and rising inequality in our region. Accelerating the adoption of new technologies and social arrangements, could help but those arrangements may also require understanding our situation differently. For example the official deprivation levels in Kaiti and Ruatoria are the same but the issues are quite different – on the Coast access to quality health services may be a big challenge but families don’t need to earn a lot when they depend less on the supermarket and more on the land and sea to source food. For example, should public policy encourage more families to return to small farming?

So let’s welcome this useful piece of research, thank the authors and take the time as a community to fully appreciate the reality of the opportunities available to us as a region.

Scoring own goal can mean you’re trying to change the rules – or The Game

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Kia ora Nandor, thanks for this great post: ‘Not Voting is An Own Goal‘.

I think you make some valid points though I disagree with you on a couple of others.

For the first time, I didn’t vote this election – it was mostly for personal reasons but it got me thinking about the more public/political reasons for choosing not to vote:

  • Ignorance about the political system, the rights and responsibilities of citizens, etc. is one reason some people do not vote. They haven’t made an effort to find out, or have thought it was not something they are allowed to do because it’s just not a system or society they feel a part of in any meaningful way. (Read this excellent reflection on these issues)
  • Others just ‘can’t be bothered’, they know they probably should but can’t get motivated enough to spend 15 minutes of their time going into a polling booth. That lack of motivation has a variety of contributing factors to it which may include being new to the place or just having other more pressing personal priorities, which may include emotional or physical needs.
  • Others choose not to vote because they honestly don’t know which person or party they would want to give their vote to – they feel ill informed and unwilling to commit one way or another because they haven’t got enough information.
    Another group don’t want to vote because they don’t have confidence in any party or politician – as a society politicians are way down the bottom of professions we trust. They have heard all the promises, probably participated in elections previously and maybe been a member of a political party but have been so disappointed by the inability of any party to live up to the expectations they held that they currently can no longer bring themselves to support any party or candidate.
  • I’m not sure if it’s a different group, a subset of the last one or just the same people with a different expression for their lack of confidence, but there are people who have given up on the whole process, the ones you suggest don’t want to legitimise a rotten system and think that voting ‘just encourages the politicians’. You suggest that this decision to not vote ‘will have absolutely no impact at all’ – but I’m not so sure.

For a starter, when nearly a million eligible voters don’t exercise the right, it provokes these kinds of discussions and encourages more deliberation on the validity of the system, the legitimacy and effectiveness of representative democracy, the possibility of more effective and potentially disastrous alternatives, the level of social capital and social infrastructure in our society that means such a large proportion of the population are disenfranchised (or not) and allowing others to determine (or not) the future for the most vulnerable in our communities, etc.

Choosing not to vote, is still a vote. It may have made John Key more likely to win, but then a Labour-led alternative is not any more attractive to many of us. Concessions on RMA and welfare reform, indigenous rights, mechanisms to address inequality, state asset sales and ties to the US economy and global military industrial complex would continue to frustrate many of us who like to think we vote with a little less self-interest than the majority of our fellow citizens. Choosing not to vote is a message to say, the system is broken (no where near as much as some others) and we want to put energy into improving or replacing it.

I think there is a place for a Vote of No Confidence option on the ballot, a space for those who don’t think we should settle for the current form of government modelled on (and still linked to) the Westminster system imposed by European settlers on these islands.

There are plenty of improvements we can make to the system (I listed some toward the end of this post), and we can help create those changes with or without central government support. There are examples of this happening all the time using existing institutions and creating new processes and contexts for reducing the influence of the dominant paradigm on our families and communities.

Likewise we can build authentic alternatives for self-governance, most likely without public support and eventually these will create conflict with the dominant system if they refuse to contribute to its maintenance and self-legitimising mechanisms for survival. This is a much more costly option and is unlikely to succeed, but if it’s all too hard then we continue to meddle and tinker with a massive infrastructure that is controlled by very powerful forces that refuse to give up power while we’re running out of time to make the changes the world needs to have any chance of a decent future.
I like your point that voting doesn’t actually take much effort and provided it’s value and potential is seen for little effort and little impact it has, it’s not really so demanding that we should abstain for any good reason.

I’ll probably vote again in the future, but by not doing so this time, I’m choosing not to abdicate anything to the government and voting for myself to take more responsibility for creating the community, country and planet I want my kids to be able to contribute to.

Local Māori Governance – A Briefing Note for Community Governance Workshop for Tairāwhiti

Whakawhitirā church in the Waiapu valley (cf. 1830)

Whakawhitirā church in the Waiapu valley (cf. 1830)

I’m helping organise a workshop on Community Governance, one of the presenters is from Portland, Oregon and we are wanting to give him some background on the local context, particularly Māori in governance roles. This is my (brief) briefing note –  feedback welcome if I’ve omitted or misrepresented anything significant. 

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POPULATION, GEOGRAPHY & ECONOMY

Name & Population

Tairāwhiti (“The Coast Where the Sun Shines on the Water”) or Gisborne (the name of a Colonial Secretary for the British Empire who never visited the place) is a region on the East Coast of the North Island of Aotearoa New Zealand.

The population of approximately 45,000 residents includes about 33,000 in the city of Gisborne and the remainder in rural villages and on farms. Most of the settlements are close to the coastline. The population has been declining slightly for a decade or so but the birth rate and youth population is generally higher than the national average.

Ethnic Groups

The ethnic identity of residents is fairly evenly split between Māori and Pākehā (New Zealanders of European descent) with a small proportion of Pacific Islanders (mostly Tongan & Fijian Indian), Asian (Indian & Chinese) and others.

Geography

The geographic isolation of the region makes travel to other cities and metropolitan areas a long haul by road and travel within the region can also be challenging as the terrain is often steep and prone to land slips.

Economy

The main industries in the region are based on the primary sector including farming, forestry, horticulture, viticulture and fishing. 2.2m tonnes of raw logs were exported from the port last year, and this is expected to continue growing. The increase in farm land converted to forestry has contributed to the population decline in rural communities over the last 30 years.

– – –

MĀORI COMMUNITIES

Settlement & Tribal Groups

The original inhabitants of the area are thought to have established settlements in the region between 1200 and 1400 CE. Their descendants continue to reside in the region which is home to about a dozen traditional iwi (tribes) that have been amalgamated into four main tribes: Ngāti Porou, Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Rongowhakaata and Ngai Tamanuhiri.

Colonisation

During the early 1800s British settlers signed a Treaty with Māori leaders in an attempt to legitimise their occupation of the islands, but almost immediately after the Treaty was signed, settler political and commercial interests started passing laws and taking action to grab as much Māori land as possible. This resulted in a series of wars around the country between British troops and tribes that resisted the invasion and alienation of their territories. Some tribes chose to side with the British forces in a continuation of traditional inter-tribal conflict. Tribes that sided with the Crown managed to retain more of their land than those who resisted and ultimately had vast areas confiscated to be held by the Crown or sold to settlers.

In Tairāwhiti there are two main tribal areas, the tribes of Turanganui-a-Kiwa (Gisborne city and to the west) lost more than a million hectares to confiscation. Ngāti Porou (an area covering 400,000 hectares north of the city and now the second largest iwi population in the country) sided with the Crown and kept the majority of their land under tribal control.

– – –

MĀORI GOVERNANCE

Tribal Governance

Most members of Tairāwhiti iwi live away from the area (e.g. Ngāti Porou have over 70,000 members but only 12,000 residing within its tribal boundaries).

The late 1980s followed 20 years of activism to recognise Māori political rights and two acts of Parliament established two tribal governance authorities, one for Ngāti Porou and one for the collective of Turanganui-a-Kiwa iwi.

Post-Settlement

In the last five years all but one of the iwi have settled claims for historic breaches of the Treaty of Waitangi (signed in 1840), the last tribe is expected to settle with the Crown later this year. Settlements include a formal apology from the Crown for a list of Treaty breaches, the return of some lands, cash compensation (in Tairāwhiti these have been between $20-200m) and the establishment of new governance relationships.

Local Government

In the case of Turanga iwi, this will include a standing committee of Gisborne District Council made up for six councillors and six iwi representatives. For Ngāti Porou it includes new protocols with various central government agencies that must consult with the iwi, and provide a first right of refusal when disposing of Crown properties, etc.

The NZ Local Government Act provides for local authorities to establish Māori wards within the Council representation system. Very few have ever taken up this option. Based on the regulatory criteria, in Tairāwhiti it would mean there could be up to five Māori seats on the Council that currently has 13 seats. Gisborne District Council has continually voted against this option arguing that it would be discriminatory or that the district would suffer as remaining general wards would be enlarged.

Pre-European Community Governance

In February 1862 the total Pākehā population on the East Coast (excluding the area now known as Gisborne City and the Poverty Bay Flats) was estimated to be 20, while that of Maori was around 5,000. A report written in 2009 as part of the Waitangi Tribunal investigation into historic breaches of the Treaty refers to a resident magistrate’s recollections of Māori community governance structure that existed before the settler government imposed new structures:

…Every day affairs on the coast at this time were said to be arranged by runanga. [Resident Magistrate] Baker reported that “Almost every village has its own, in which everything, from far country news to domestic life, is freely discussed.”

Based at Rangitukia, Baker defined existing runanga as a community, consisting of any number of persons exceeding one family:
“Thus, within a few hundred yards of my present residence, there is a collection of some three or four huts, the inhabitants of which style themselves “Te Runanga o Pahairomiromi;” the latter being the name of the village. These, and many other similar Runangas, assume all the powers and privileges of the largest Runanga (as at present constituted), and claim to be independent… of any control by the general Runanga, if such a term may be applied to the voice of the mass of the people.”

So there is a strong tradition of community governance and in the ‘post-settlement environment’ we are seeing a burgeoning of sub-tribal groups being re-established as hapū trusts with a focus on the social, economic, cultural and environmental revitalisation and wellbeing of their tribal area.

Land Trusts & Incorporations

Māori land in the 19th Century was ‘cut up’ into ‘land blocks’ that were assigned through the Native Land Court to 10-20 ‘owners’ who could convince the courts that they were descendants of traditional owners for particular blocks. This made it easier for Pākehā settlers to purchase land (often Māori had massive debts as a result of surveying costs associated with Court claims that meant they had to sell much of their land).

In the 20th Century, a leading politician from Ngāti Porou, Apirana Ngata, encouraged Māori landowners to amalgamate – under incorporations – their titles into collectively owned land blocks that had been increasingly divided over generations through succession to children. Most of these land blocks have survived and are governed by Trustees elected from all the individuals who have shares in the block and subsequently recognised by the Māori Land Court.

As successive generations increase the number of landowners in each block, the governance issues become more complex and the legislation pertaining to Māori land is currently under review in an effort to make it easier for land block owners to make decisions regarding the management of land so that efficiencies and productivity can be improved. Land blocks are usually managed as a farm, often under lease to a farmer or company utilising a number of blocks in an area – many have also planted exotic pine forests in partnership with overseas owners of the trees which typically take about 25 years to mature for harvest.

Marae

The ‘last bastion’ of Māori culture is the pā or marae, the traditional compound where a whānau (extended family) and members of the hapū (collective of whānau) would live and in more recent times, meet just for community events and special occasions. Marae reservations are usually recognised formally through a gazetted notice and Trustees appointed to govern the marae. Trustees may or may not form the marae committee, that manages the day to day affairs like bookings, maintenance and repairs, finances, etc.

Ngāti Porou has over 50 recognised marae, while some of the smaller Turanga iwi have six marae. Marae receive usually receive some income from their iwi, some from philanthropic grants and occasionally a government contract for a service such as supported employment for long-term unemployed, etc. Marae also receive income for events from participants and some have whānau members who donate regularly.

Schools

Schools have Boards of Trustees and many Māori are on these governance bodies responsible for overseeing curriculum, finances, strategic direction, student achievement, etc.

Other Entities

Māori participate in a range of mainstream and Māori entities including churches, sports clubs, community organisations that all require local, regional and national governance.

USA Tour Report (May 2013)

Thanks to a generous gift from the Orangi Kaupapa Trust, I was able (and required as a condition of receiving the gift) to do something I wanted to do for myself. It’s only taken a year to write this brief account of the trip.

Manu Caddie, June 2014

 

Los Angeles – Gang Intervention & Prevention

Josh Wharehinga (Ka Pai Kaiti) and I had the privilege of visiting Homeboy Industries, an organisation started 25 years ago by a Catholic priest and a few church volunteers in a Los Angeles ghetto.

Myself, Francisco & Josh Wharehinga at Homeboy Industries

Myself, Francisco & Josh Wharehinga at Homeboy Industries

Our tour guide Francisco had parents from two rival gangs, he was six years old when his best friend had his head blown off as they walked to school and were confronted by another young person wanting to know which gang the boy affiliated to. At 14 Francisco had his first child and soon after did a ten year lag in prison after taking the rap for another gang member’s crime.

Homeboy Industries now employs around 300 ex-gang affiliated young people in a number of social enterprises. The people who come to Homeboy Industries typically stay for 18-24 months before transitioning into other businesses around the city.

The organisation bakes 1,000 loaves of bread each day and sells them in farmers markets, a café and bakery. They also run a successful screen-printing business, retail shop and tattoo removal service. A free counselling service is available and during the move to permanent work, a team of employment placement supervisors ensure the workers and employers have access to regular support over the transition period.

Francisco has been with Homeboy Industries for nearly two years and beyond all the work skills, therapy and tattoo removal he has received, the most important thing from his perspective was the unconditional love and acceptance he found in Father Greg and the other people of faith at Homeboy Industries.

Francisco now shares the faith in action he experienced through this group of believers. Rather than expecting these hurt, confused and often distrusting young people to join a church, a community of faith has been established and become a beautiful physical, social and spiritual home for many otherwise marginalised members of society.

 

Portland – Liveable City

I spent three days in Portland, Oregon primarily because I was interested experiencing the ‘cycling capital of America’.

Massive spaces on Portland roads for cycles.

Massive spaces on Portland roads for cycles.

Understanding how the city had evolved over the last 40 years – radical neighbourhood democracy in the early 70s paved the way for resident action while very conservative administrations led the city through the 80s and 90s. Now the city boasts a massive network of cycleways and neighbourhood development projects thanks in large part to the neighbourhood groups established a long time ago.

While the cycleways are an impressive feature of the city, compared to Gisborne and other New Zealand cities, there still seemed to be a high reliance on private cars. I was fortunate to participate in a May Day protest and got a taste of the culture of the city that has been the basis of the brand ‘Keep Portland Weird’ – the quirky, alternative lifestyle ‘dream of the 90s’ is alive in Portland as the ‘Portlandia’ song goes.

On my way to the Red and Black Café, an anarchist coffee shop, pub and bookstore – I popped in briefly to visit ADX, a cooperative space that ‘in a few short years has incubated over 100 start-ups and 200 crowd-sourced projects’ – an impressive shared design and construction space that a number of start-ups use to establish themselves. Kind of a craft and construction version of the Enspiral model we have seen emerge in Wellington. I think there is lots of potential for these kinds of initiatives but the capital and space required needs to come from somewhere like the philanthropic sector, local government or well-established business sponsors.

 

Chicago – Participatory Budgeting

My main reason for travelling to the USA was to attend the 2nd Annual Conference on Participatory Budgeting in the United States and Canada.

PB Chicago street sign

PB Chicago street sign

Participatory Budgeting internationally owes some of its roots to initiatives that were undertaken in Christchurch in the early 1990s – these are often cited by overseas practitioners and experts as important models they recognise as leading to further innovations in other countries like Brazil, Europe and North America.

I registered for a pre-conference workshop at the Great Cities Institute at UIC College of Urban Planning & Public Affairs. This was a valuable introduction to current PB practice and trends in the USA.

Following the workshop we attended the opening plenary ‘The People’s Budget: Participatory Budgeting in Mexico, New York, and Chicago’ at Madero Middle School in West Chicago, this was a public event in Spanish with English interpretation – a great example of bi-ligualism in practice and something I envied having raised our children only speaking Te Reo Māori to them. The neighbourhood is very depressed but PB is thriving and a New York City councillor shared her experience of PB as well.

PB projects that citizens can vote for.

PB projects that citizens can vote for.

I was fortunate to have a presentation selected to share on ‘Public Finance Planning in New Zealand Local Government’, it received a favourable response from attendees. It was in the first workshop session so I got to enjoy the rest of the conference without any nervous wait. I was not disappointed, all of the sessions I attended were inspiring, practical and provocative. I brought home many resources, ideas and contacts that I intend to use in my paid and voluntary work for years to come. The Pacific Centre for Participatory Democracy is an idea I have used for the last ten years and I plan to formalise it over the next few years and I expect PB will be a key part of its work plan.

Have your say on access to alcohol

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While there has been much justified public concern about at the sale, consumption and effects of synthetic psychoactive substances, there has been no public outrage at a far more dangerous, less regulated and damaging drug. It seems alcohol-related harm is tolerated by the vast majority of Kiwis and Gisborne is no exception:

  • New Zealand Police data shows that alcohol-related offending in Gisborne peaks on Friday and Saturday nights between 8pm and 4am.
  • Alcohol is a big factor in at least one half of deaths in people aged under 24 years.
  • Alcohol plays a role in at least 30% of hospital emergency department admissions on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
  • Alcohol-related injuries make up 60 percent of injury-based admissions to the emergency department.
  • 10 percent of assaults are recorded as alcohol-related by victims.
  • There was an increase of 22 percent in Police callouts for alcohol-fuelled crime 2008 and 2012.
  • NZTA statistics over a five year period show alcohol was involved in about twenty percent of Gisborne city crashes and a quarter of accidents on local rural roads.
  • Last year alcohol was a factor in up to 30 percent of fatal accidents in the Gisborne region.

To their credit it seems Gisborne District Council staff and councillors are finally willing to take on the industry and put tighter controls on the supply of this drug we have come to accept the daily abuse of in our community.

Bold proposals in the Draft Local Alcohol Policy will see sale times at off-license venues like wholesalers and supermarkets limited to between 10am and 9pm, bars and clubs will need to stop selling alcohol by 2am and bottle stores will not be allowed to setup close to schools and other sensitive locations. There will also be a limit on the number of off-license sites and licensees will need to have a plan showing how consuming alcohol in their venue will be managed to ensure safe and responsible drinking.

Tairawhiti Community Voice has encouraged our member organisations to make submissions on the Draft Local Alcohol Policy and we hope many local residents and other organisations do likewise to support the courageous position the Draft Local Alcohol Policy is taking in an effort to help reduce the harm caused by this drug. No doubt the alcohol industry and their well-paid lobbyists will attack the proposed changes. Councils have already been threatened with legal action just for letting locals have more say as the new law allows.

Responding to alcohol lobbyists suggestions that such policy changes are ‘going back in time’, a senior Police officer recently said research and experience confirms that every hour the drinking hours are reduced creates a safer environment. The longer people drink the more intoxicated they become and more harm is caused.

Submissions closed this week and the hearings will be an interesting exercise in local democracy as concerned residents and emergency services face off against the might of the alcohol lobby.

Rebels Against The Future

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As a regular promoter of new technology (renewable energy generation and use as a replacement for fossil fuels), it’s a little ironic to be called a Luddite.

I would however wear the label proudly, but compare myself to my Dad who has never owned a car, computer or cellphone.

I do try to avoid the self-service checkouts at supermarkets, I know it’s a futile effort but trying to keep local people in a job just a little longer seems worth the extra few seconds waiting in line.

The Luddites were passionate about keeping people in meaningful employment and sustainable communities. If they were around today I guess they might be protesting about our obsession with speed and digital technology at the expense of traditional jobs and a more human pace of life.

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A few years back I bought Dad a book about the Luddites called ‘Rebels Against the Future‘. The author Kirkpatrick Sale suggests that the Luddites did not want to turn the clock back. They said, “We want to cling to this way of life; we don’t want a life in which we’re forced into factories, forced onto machines we can’t control, and forced from village self-sufficiency into urban dependency and servitude.”

A modern Luddite is also trying to hold to certain elements of the past to resurrect the community. Neo-Luddites wish to resurrect some values of the past such as communitarianism, non-materialism, an understanding of nature, and a meshing with nature. These things have been largely taken from us in the last 200 years and we must fight to preserve them.

Sale believes “sustainable” is essentially the opposite of “industrial.” Sustainability implies a non-exploitive relationship with nature and a basic self-sufficiency in life. Industrialism can’t allow that to exist because that kind of living would not create, manufacture, use or consume. Sustainability, community and self-sufficiency are antithetical to industrialism.

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Leaving Council

VOTE

City ward councillor Manu Caddie has resigned from Gisborne District Council.

Mr Caddie said he arrived at the decision after some significant soul searching following a recent family trip to Asia and discussion with family and close friends.

“Recently I have taken time to reflect on my priorities and I need to make some changes. I should have made this decision before the last election and I am sorry for the inconvenience and extra cost that my resignation will mean for the Council and ratepayers.”

Mr Caddie said it has been a privilege to serve the Gisborne community as a District Councillor since 2010.

“Being on Council has been a highlight of my working life. The opportunity to help shape the future of our district is a serious responsibility and requires people who have the time and energy to devote to the task. Unfortunately I am unable to do this at present.”

Mr Caddie will continue involvement with a small number of community initiatives and a new organisation.

Mr Caddie’s resignation will mean a by-election must be held by early July for a new city ward councillor.

ENDS

Billboard Liberation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Chamber of Commerce Q+A

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The Gisborne Chamber of Commerce asked candidates five questions, these are my responses…

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I have enjoyed first term on Council, part of that was on the Chamber Executive and I’d like to see those links strengthened a little more as I think Brian Wilson and myself acted as a useful conduit between the Council and Chamber on a number of issues.

I think I’ve been able to make intelligent, sensible and considered contributions to Council and I’ve helped raise the quality of discussion, debate and decision-making.

I’ve had a focus on increasing public involvement in planning and decisions and been a strong advocate for the city and the district as a whole.

I have listened to residents and ratepayers (even after being elected!), worked well with others (who don’t always share the same values and views) and helped make good decisions in the best interest of the region as a whole.

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1. What do you see as the GDC’s role in contributing to economic development and growth in this region?

Council has a key role in a number of areas contributing to economic development:

  1. Providing good quality infrastructure, predictable regulation & consistent planning
  2. Collecting and disseminating information that helps the community make informed decisions on the direction for the district
  3. Advocating for the district at central government – ensuring our big issues are nationally significant issues.
  4. Facilitating relationships between stakeholders to realise opportunities and achieve sustainable solutions in the best interest of the district where there are competing priorities.

Some of functions within these areas, particulatly information gathering and sharing, advocacy and relationship brokerage could be devolved to an Economic Development Agency run separate to Council. But the Mayor and Council have a critical leadership role in advocating on behalf of the region – especially on things like roading, new costs being imposed by central government legislation, etc. And political leadership can help broker mutually beneficial relationships with industry, iwi, land owners, research institutions, entrepreneurs, etc.

Council can also have procurement and banking policies that benefit the local community in different ways.

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2. What is your view of the core role of council? Do you consider there are any current council activities that do not fit this role?

Under new legislation the purpose of local government is now to provide quality infrastructure, regulation & essential services. Opposition parties have pledged to revert the purpose back to promoting sustainable development and local cultural, environmental, social and economic wellbeing.

I’m not completely wedded to Council providing social housing. I have argued it could be sold to a Charitable Trust, housing cooperative or something like ECT but wouldn’t want to see them go to private ownership. I’m also open to Council not owning any or all of its commercial assets (WOF station, holiday park, farms) if there are compelling financial reasons to divest from these enterprises. We need an urgent review of Council asset ownership to identify options and the benefits of retaining or releasing these enterprises.

Tauwhareparae Farms are being well run but I’m not convinced we need to retain them. They were acquired to supplement port income and will always provide low value compared to capital committed, as the trees appreciate so will the capital value. There is no legal risk in selling them and my preference would be as Margaret Thorpe suggests to land-bank them via OTS as they are subject to Treaty claims. This will ensure we get a premium price, they are retained in local ownership and we demonstrate goodwill to the traditional owners.

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3. Businesses have to live within their means, or face the consequences. What is your view with regard to GDC achieving the same discipline around keeping rates increases in check?

Significant savings have been made by previous and current CEO to trim as much as possible. More ‘savings’ could be found but that depends on what we want to give up and what quality of life we can tolerate.

I campaigned on rates rises at or below inflation and we have achieved that. The ‘razor gang’ didn’t make any significant savings. I also campaigned on getting more predictable rates system with smaller variations year on year and we are making good progress on this through the participatory rates review process.

Council league tables suggest we are now one of the most financially sustainable and we rank 26 out of 73 councils for cost of rates.

Councillors are financially conservative and understand the limits of affordability for residents, but the WMT suggests this is not the case. That massive blowout and the need to address some basic first suggest some of the fancy projects need to be reviewed while we attend to the basics first.

If the community has things they think we should stop doing or not start they have the opportunity every year and we listen to that feedback.

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4. What is your position with respect to the re-opening of the Gisborne to Napier rail line?

The railway line a billion dollar public asset that is lying idle while Gisborne and Wairoa businesses scream out for it to make our products more competitive. Some people say logs will never go South on it but there are massive forests between Napier and Gisborne that will provide the anchor business for the line so that containerised seasonal produce and timber coming out and fertiliser going to Gisborne can be transported by rail instead of trucks. Coastal shipping is unlikely to ever be viable if the rail is operating.

More trucks on the road means more cost in maintenance, more congestion and more danger for other motorists – it also means more cost for local businesses and more competition from other places that have lower freight costs.

With the support of 10,000 signatures and $20,000 given by local businesses and residents, we commissioned a study that demonstrated the lack of rigor in the government’s position and the potential for a realistic business case if roads and rail were considered on a level playing field by central government.

A different government next year will reinstate the line if the local business consortium is unable to raise the funds required. Some candidates say they don’t don’t support ratepayers funding the line operation – that has never been a realistic option – but Council could be a stronger advocate for the line.

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5. If you were elected to the council, what activities or actions would you take to ensure Gisborne becomes an even better place to work, live and play?

I will keep doing what I have been:

–  all of the above, plus…

–  working with the IT sector to establish local computer hubs for young people and families with few opportunities to access IT, career pathways via the Techxpo and partnership with major NZ telcos

– advocating for more central government support for our district (transport, rail, imposed costs, renewable energy, forestry carbon credits, aquaculture, etc.) and working with iwi and other stakeholders on these issues

– leading a gang transformation project focused on employment and working with employers and support services

– review commercial assets

– keep rates at or below inflation

– continue support for better commuter cycling and walking infrastructure

– more emphasis on local housing issues – affordable, healthy housing for everyone, not provided by Council but Council facilitating government, community and private sectors working together

– continue emphasising the importance of opportunities for public input on issues like forestry harvest rules, petroleum exploration applications, legislative submissions, etc.

– continue work on Māori land issues – Council working with landowners to look at how to make the land more productive and/or revert to indigenous forest

–  continue supporting illegal dumping prevention and removal, and more ambitious waste minimisation targets.

– continue bringing diverse parts of the community together to address complex issues

– continue voluntary involvement in a wide range of community groups and local issues.

My Views on a Multicultural Tairāwhiti

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

Meeting with youth in a Nepalese village in 2007.

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

What would you do with 40 million dollars?

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The possible sale of the Tauwhareparae farms should be part of a review of all council owned property says City Ward district councillor Manu Caddie who is making it part of his election policy for the October local government elections.

While he is not committed to a sale at present he feels the financial returns from the farms do not justify the capital investment they represent. One possible solution would be  to have the Office of Treaty Settlements buy them on behalf of the traditional Maori owners.

Mr Caddie is frustrated that a promised review of the council’s business units has not yet happened, mostly because of staffing issues following the departure of the chief financial officer and the delay in finding a replacement until after the rest of the staffing restructure was completed.

“Philosophically I have no problem with the council owning commercial entities provided they have either a strong income earning capacity or provide some other significant social, cultural or environmental benefit,” he said..

“I have complete confidence in the governance, management and operations of the farms, they are in the top ten performing units in the district and I believe those responsible for maximising profits from them are doing a good job of getting the best out of them. I also agree with Hilton Collier that there are opportunities for innovation and value-adding along the supply chain that the directors could focus more resources on.

“However, the financial returns provided by the farms do not justify the capital investment they represent.

“I disagree with the assessment that the return on investment has been over 15 percent for the last ten years. Including the land value in the ROI is dishonest accounting as it is not realised until the asset is actually sold and land values can go down as easily as they go up, though admittedly it is less fickle than some other investment options.

“If we took the actual dividends paid, and perhaps even a portion of the capital reinvestment retained, it seems term deposits and even conservative options like Government bonds would have delivered millions more to offset income that the council otherwise derives from our rates.

“Some sectors of the community have a strong emotional attachment – our rural councillors have tended to favour retention of the farms no matter what, though I have heard a number of farmers are keen to see council ownership reviewed as soon as possible.

“The farm directors and managers over the years have been responsible stewards of the land by committing significant Overlay 3A areas to reforestation, though I would like to know more about the biodiversity offsetting proposed that would allow them to clear a substantial Protected Management Area of indigenous vegetation that will take some time to replicate elsewhere.

“The farms have significance for local Māori and competing Treaty claims on the land meant that they were left out of settlements to date. So there is an option here that would take the risk out of the valuation price not being realised if the property went to market as the Office of Treaty Settlements would be obliged to purchase for no less than the latest registered valuation.

“That option would guarantee that the farms will be retained in local ownership rather than being snapped up by an absentee owner. It would also provide a significant gesture of goodwill from the people of Gisborne to the traditional ‘owners’ of the area and combined with other investment capital from Treaty settlements could pursue some of the innovation potential.

“So, at this stage I’m not saying I am committed to the sale but I am very motivated to have a thorough and independent review of council retaining ownership.

“We should not let politicians get in the way of the facts! I think we need to have a good long look at the likely scenarios should we decide to sell or retain the farms and what protections can be put in place to ensure councillors don’t just squander any proceeds on popular projects that could diminish rather than enhance the overall financial position of council,” said Mr Caddie.

Are we all Placemakers?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regional Economic Development

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A Gisborne District Councillor says the government is picking winners and industries other than oil and gas would grow the regional economy if similar public funds were committed to other parts of the economy.

Manu Caddie would prefer to see government support for developing industries on the East Coast such as renewable biofuels and biochemicals, internet-based small businesses, high tech food production with the associated intellectual property and what he terms ‘lifestyle relocators’.

“We could wait for a new mill to be built and employ a few hundred on minimum wage or we could get on with attracting a hundred innovative, high earning business owners that want to live in places that are vibrant and well connected but out of the rat race of the sprawling metropolitan areas. Compared to the larger centres we have very cheap commercial and residential property prices, a compact city, relaxed lifestyles and relatively unspoiled environment.”

Mr Caddie says the Government has a fundamentally flawed policy of prioritising petroleum development without any plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions let alone transition the country away from fossil fuels.

“There may well be some short-term economic gain for some members of the community if a significant amount of hydrocarbons can be extracted, but the evidence from overseas is that in mining boomtowns the economic benefits accrue to a certain part of the population while others are worse off and inequalities increase.”

“The region has not had a properly informed debate on the costs and benefits of mining here. There has been no independent analysis and advice on our situation and what the alternatives could be that would deliver more sustainable employment and environmental benefits. If the Government wants to pick winners then at least make it evidence-based instead of ideological. Environmentally sustainable mining is an oxymoron and given the scientific evidence on the impacts of fossil fuel consumption, the issue really is a moral question more than anything else.”

Mr Caddie says he agrees with Steven Joyce and Meng Foon that education needs even more attention.

“This is as much about families and students getting the support they need and taking responsibility as it is about the quality of teaching and approaches to formal learning. More sophiscated understanding of and flexibility around the relationships between schooling, family dynamics, employment and lifestyle choices is critical.”

“Only one in four Gisborne school leavers have NCEA Level 3 or above, nearly ten percent lower than the national average. Between half and three quarters of young people say they do not plan to continue with any form tertiary training after leaving school. A higher proportion of Gisborne young people work in agriculture, fishing, forestry and manufacturing than the national average.”

Gisborne has about 150 young offenders under 17 years. Based on 2001 estimates from PriceWaterhouseCoopers, each year offences committed by young people in Gisborne cost around $2.5 million in Police, court and sentencing costs.

“There is a significant underclass emerging that are extremely disconnected from mainstream society, community leaders, public institutions, employers and community organisations need to get a whole lot smarter about how we think about this part of the population and just focusing on economic development will not be sufficient.”

Deepening Democracy

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‘The Death of Socrates’

The controversial decision of the Local Government Commission on the GDC Representation Review has provided another opportunity to look at local democracy in more depth. The status quo was preferred by a slim majority of councillors but like in 1998 the Commission took into account the law and the views of submitters and ultimately required changes in the structure of elected members.

It is great to see my rural colleagues committed to ensuring all voices in the district are heard and the ‘quiet’ residents “have their needs listened to and met.” I agree we need to ensure those groups that traditionally have not had a strong voice around the Council table are better represented and contribute to decision-making.

To this end perhaps we should be reviewing the current content and effectiveness of the GDC Consultation Policy passed by the previous Council?

That policy commits Council to “partner with the public in each aspect of a decision, including the development of alternatives and the identification of the preferred solution.” The policy says “We will look to you (citizens) for direct advice in formulating solutions and incorporate your advice into the decisions to the maximum extent possible.” My short time on Council has suggested there is much room for improvement in this regard.

The last Council specifically excluded ’empowerment’ and putting ‘decision-making in the hands of the public’ from the spectrum of public engagement in the Consultation Policy. I guess it may come down to a philosophy of governance. Some people believe elected representatives are put into office to make decisions on behalf of the public who wish to have little input in decisions that affect them. Others of us believe our role is to encourage as much public participation in local decision-making as possible. Maybe I’ve packaged the proposals in unhelpful ways, but most of my efforts in this regard haven’t been very successful to date.

Community Boards were one example and something we could have included in the Representation Review if there was greater willingness to look at ways to improve our democratic processes locally. 42 submitters (including a number living in rural areas) argued for Community Boards through their Representation Review submissions compared to only 11 submitters who said they did not support Community Boards.

Wainui/Okitu Residents and Ratepayers Association submission specifically requested a Community Board for their community as they argued Wainui/Okitu is a community of interest as defined in the legislation. They also suggested other rural communities may benefit from community boards.

While highly effective in the overwhelming majority of districts that have Community Boards, the request for community boards was rejected by the majority of councilors.

It is encouraging to see that the majority of councilors support special treatment for some parts of the population, in this case depending on where you live or own property. As Turanga iwi have successfully demonstrated through their Treaty settlements, indigenous peoples are also entitled to special treatment in local government arrangements and it will be interesting to see how this works out under the new statutory committee to be established between Council and iwi.

Consultation Policy goals we can and will do better on include: promoting a sense of ownership of its decisions by the people of the district; providing an opportunity for meaningful input into decisions; creating an awareness of the diversity of opinion within the community; and showing leadership.

15 years after the last changes were made in representation arrangements some will say we are closer to fair representation and others will say we are not, but hopefully we can keep taking important steps toward empowered participation.

Courting Coexistence

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The tragic spectre of more violence and deaths this week from religious riots highlight the dark side of fundamentalism.

It is also a timely reminder of the importance of interfaith dialogue and the value of initiatives like the Gisborne Interfaith Network. The local interfaith monthly meeting last night discussed ‘The Purpose of Life’ from the perspective of each tradition represented.

Such dialogue is not intended to be a debate, rather it opens a space to respectfully enquire and share the experience, worldviews and ways of approaching issues all humans face. Learning how to coexist with people outside of our friends and family is a big part of growing up in the modern world.

For all their history as the cause of conflict, faith traditions of the world have had shining examples of peacemakers in places as diverse as Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the United States, South America and the Soviet Union. Humble people have been loyal to their faith and had the courage to speak out and step up to build bridges that move beyond hatred, intolerance and violence.

What is a Christian response to the current wave of religious violence? No easy answers, but I suspect it would include being an instrument of God’s peace; where there is hatred, sow love; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light. Remember: “Perfect love casts out ALL fear”.

At 8am on Saturday 6th October, the annual interfaith service at Gisborne’s Cook National Memorial will focus on the ‘Creation of a Nation’. As a nation, we have produced some of the finest mediators in the world, let us pray that tolerance, peace and understanding can spread from Gisborne to all places currently afflicted by fundamentalism, bigotry and violence.

Subsidies & Spinners

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Oil lobbyist David Robinson in a recent column said we should let the public make up their own minds: “we can argue back and forth, back and forth using hand-picked examples of why each point of view is right. But that’s not helping anyone.” Of course he included with this statement with a few hand-picked examples.

I guess I do have personal ideology as Mr Robinson claims but I don’t agree it should be ‘put aside’ – it’s an ideology that favours all of the relevant information being made available to the public so we can make free, prior and informed decisions. Any opposition I have has developed since looking beyond the industry PR spin ($185m worth of lobbying in the US alone last year) and trying to take seriously the science related to human use of petroleum and its impact on the planet.

Beyond the climate implications, it seems useful to refer to people with direct experience of the industry, like Caleb Behn who acknowledges the income that can be derived from oil. Weighing these benefits with the negative social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts in his homelands, Caleb is strongly opposed and warns others to look carefully at the situation in British Columbia and Alberta.

The farmer speaking in Gisborne this week is in no way ‘philosophically opposed to the oil and gas industry’ – if Mr Robinson had read her story in The Washington Post he would have seen that Ms. Vargson and her husband used to maintain a herd of dairy cattle but got out of that business because of methane getting into their well water, a fact confirmed by the state regulators. The couple now work at other jobs and worry their son won’t be able to farm there either. Ms. Vargson permitted drilling of a gas well in the pasture behind her home, but the experience has raised serious doubts. Drilling “can be done safely,” she said. “I believe that the technology is there.” But she added: “I believe that for the most part the industry takes a lot of shortcuts.”

The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) and UK Royal Society’s fracking report probably hasn’t been widely promoted because it omits some key facts: the RAE’s ex-President is Lord Browne, Chairman of Cuadrilla, the UK’s leading fracker. Lord Browne was head of the RAE until last year and owns 30% of Cuadrilla.

The RAE is also part funded by the oil and gas industry. In the last three years the RAE has taken £601,000 from oil companies with links to fracking. The same organisation has awarded cash prizes to BP engineers for their work in hydraulic fracturing.

The influence of the oil and gas industry on the RAE has not decreased with Lord Browne’s departure. His successor – Sir John Parker – is closely connected to the fracking industry. Before taking over at the RAE, Parker headed Anglo American with their fracking interests in in South Africa. Parker is a gas man through and through – some of his previous positions include non-executive director at British Gas, Chairman of National Grid Transco (gas distribution) and non-executive of BG Group (which has coal bed methane interests in Scotland).

Mr Robinson says renewables are too expensive, I agree. If it wasn’t for the one trillion dollars of annual public subsidies awarded to the fossil fuel industries and permissive legislation that allows continued access to relatively cheap fossil fuels, renewable technology would be affordable to most of us.

It was great to hear Rod Drury this week talking about how his software company may soon overtake Fonterra as New Zealand’s largest business. IT entrepreneurs are keen to move to Gisborne for the lifestyle and environment it currently offers. Some locals have been in contact with a biochemicals company in California that has huge potential and is interested in establishing a demonstration plant on the East Coast. These seem like far more sensible opportunities for our community to encourage than the dirty business of oil.