Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council Q+A

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Photo: Mel Tahata, opening of To Be Pacific exhibition, Tairāwhiti Museum, 20 September 2013

Tairāwhiti Multicultural Council asked local body candidates five questions. They seem to have liked my responses!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Other responses: http://tairawhitimulticulturalcouncil.blogspot.co.nz/

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.

 

Ask Ratepayers Before Deciding on Extra $2 Million for Theatre

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Expecting ratepayers to fork out an extra $2.1 million dollars for the War Memorial Theatre without asking if they support the decision is unacceptable according to District Councillor Manu Caddie.

Mr Caddie was responding to news that the War Memorial Theatre upgrade will cost $9.6m instead the $7.17m budgeted and approved in Council’s Ten Year Plan.

Staff and some councillors are recommending an extra $2.1million is borrowed because debt is lower than forecast and the expense is ‘therefore affordable’ and ‘not luxurious’.

“I beg to differ. Spending an extra $2million of ratepayers money really needs to go to them before a decision is made” said Mr Caddie.

“The community was told 70 percent of the Theatre funds would come from external sources, now it looks like that could drop to closer to 50 percent and $4.25m worth of rates would be used to make up the difference.”

“The Theatre is a important part of our civic infrastructure and used by many parts of the community, but it now has a much higher price tag than the $6.8m estimated in 2011 and the $7.2m approved in the Ten Year Plan last year.”

Mr Caddie says he could be agreeable to upping the Council contribution to 33 percent which would require $1,050,000 of loan funds, but still believes it would require a special consultative procedure if the decision was to be made before the next Ten Year Plan.

“We couldn’t find even $15,000 for the Skate Park, a Council-owned asset that is used by more people in one weekend than the War Memorial Theatre sees in a month, so I really can’t stomach committing over $2million without proper public consultation.”

“While the loan swaps we are locked into may mean there are advantages in spending on bringing projects forward, we really need to get some sense of the cost for replacing Council administration buildings before rushing into unplanned spending.”

Mr Caddie says Council should go back to the organisations that have granted funds for the project so far.

“First we need to explain that the project has cost a huge amount more than the best estimates we got in 2011 and see if they are willing to add up to 25 percent to their grant to help cover the difference. If that is not an option then we need to explain it may take require longer than expected to secure the funds. The project is not planned to be completed until 2016 so we have some time still.”

Mr Caddie said he is impressed with the external funds secured by Council staff and the War Memorial Theatre Trust and would be willing to help find the additional funds required from external sources.

The matter will be debated by Council at their meeting next Thursday 5 September.

Challenging Child Abuse Statistics

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A new Child Poverty Action Group report has ranked the regions around the country on their child abuse statistics While Tairāwhiti is not amongst the highest areas we’re not near the bottom either. Being somewhere in the middle is positive considering our high proportion of young people and low socioeconomic status.

The data presented in the paper suggests that higher rates of child abuse are associated with socioeconomic deprivation rather than what age or ethnic group you belong to.

We will be contacting the authors to understand more about how they defined ‘substantiated’ as there a number of levels within the CYF system that could have been used as the measure.

I agree with the authors when they suggest even a cursory examination of the New Zealand data such as that presented in the report suggests that dealing effectively with child abuse will entail paying a great deal more attention to socioeconomic deprivation than has been the case so far. While the Government’s White Paper identified deprivation as a risk factor in child abuse, it failed to propose any measures to address it – on the contrary it sought to trivialise the role of income poverty by introducing “different sort[s] of poverty – poverty of affection, poverty of protection, poverty of expectation, poverty of educational stimulation, poverty of positive role models” (p.26). The White Paper focused on ‘benefit dependency’ as a risk factor for ‘vulnerable children’, however the analysis in the CPAG report suggests that may not be a useful approach.

And basically they are saying it’s not because a child is Māori or Pasifika that makes them more likely to be abused or neglected, it’s to do with socio-economic deprivation and ‘ethnic clustering’ in the social stratifications: “It is clear from the census data that low incomes and the effects of poverty tend to be clustered in certain areas and that Māori and Pacific people are disproportionately over-represented in these areas.”

Ethnic stratification exists in New Zealand, and while for Māori and Asian communities it is static or improving, for Pacific peoples it is getting worse.

The report says “There has been extensive research on the impact of ethnic segregation overseas but almost nothing in New Zealand. Ethnic stratification and ethnic clustering have not officially been identified as issues requiring attention in New Zealand and so are not measured by any central or local government agency. Yet the disproportionately high rates of child abuse among Māori across the country suggest that this aspect needs to be considered, especially as ethnic clustering is so closely associated with socioeconomic deprivation.”

It is impossible to disentangle ethnicity, poverty, poor health, overcrowded housing, and lack of access to employment and services from one another.

I have been asking for Council to report on these inequality issues within our region and it is on the staff work programme to do so. These are the kinds of things we can do something about locally instead of just saying it is a central government responsibility. Central government is part of the problem and locally we can do much more to address these issues than big bureaucracies can.

Justice for Teina Pora!

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Recently, new information and evidence has come to light that suggests Teina Pora should never have been convicted of rape and murder in 1994:

This petition calls on the Minister of Justice Judith Collins to support an urgent and independent inquiry into Teina’s conviction. It is supported by a growing list of individuals and organisations, not least of which is the Police Association itself.

Please click here to: SIGN THE PETITION

Thank you for supporting this campaign to get the NZ Justice system to fix a mistake it has made.

Teina-letter

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