Government misses the mark on alcohol law reforms

A local youth advocate is disappointed with government plans to focus on youth access to alcohol and says unless the Government implement the recommendations of the Law Commission in total there will be no change in the statistics around alcohol and the damage excess use causes.

“It is no use scapegoating young people”, says Manu Caddie, Trustee for Te Ora Hou Te Tairawhiti Trust that works with young people who have problems with alcohol and drugs. Mr Caddie contributed to Gisborne District Council’s submission on alcohol law reform last year and participated in a national meeting between Maori community leaders and the Law Commission to discuss the options they were considering putting to government.

“When we met with the Law Commission to discuss their ideas we told Sir Geoffrey Palmer that young people need to stop drinking as heavily as they do, but merely targeting laws against them will not work” said Mr Caddie, the government obviously haven’t taken heed of this message that was passed on by the Law Commission and as a result our binge-drinking culture will no doubt continue.”

Mr Caddie says Public Health guidelines known as the Ottowa Charter, have been implemented internationally for the last 25 years and show that unless the whole community is targeted very little change occurs in behaviour. Getting drunk and smoking cigarettes are seen as a hallmark of adult behaviour.

“Adults are smoking less because of our excellent public health laws and education in this area. If we want young people to decrease their alcohol use then adults have to do the same. Children and young people learn from the examples given to them by adults.”

The Law Commission recommended that if the government is to control the damage caused by excess alcohol drinking then they need to make it less available by curtailing when and where it is sold, and by increasing the price.

“If we are going to reduce the demand for alcohol then we must curtail its promotion through marketing and advertising and provide much more effective education programmes and access to treatment services for those who are having problems with the amount they drink and can no longer control it.”

92% of people with alcohol problems are aged over 20 years but the reform package focuses on people under the age of 20. “Some of the measures are good and we need to address youth attitudes to alcohol but the reforms miss the bulk of Law Commission calls for increasing excise tax, limiting advertising and lowering the blood alcohol levels for driving which would clearly have made the biggest difference.

We hear much about “whole of Government” approaches. Let’s take a “whole of Community” approach to the binge drinking culture we have developed in Gisborne today, and make our community a healthier and happier place to live.

ENDS

WOF for rental properties?

Gisborne housing advocates are welcoming news that University of Otago researchers have developed a housing quality index that could be used as a Warrant of Fitness before any property is rented to tenants.

“We have been talking about ways to ensure every rental property in Gisborne is safe and not contributing to health problems for tenants, particularly the elderly and children” said Manu Caddie, Convenor of the Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group.

The housing quality index is a comprehensive check-list which trained people can use to grade and report on a property’s attributes and defects from the ground up. While the check-list is not widely used yet, researcher Dr Michael Keall said it could be that, in the future, homeowners could commission such a report for tenants.

The index, the first of its kind in New Zealand, has been developed over the past five years by He Kainga Organa Housing and Health Research Programme staff, including Dr Keall, at the university’s Wellington campus.

Dr Keall is recognised as a world expert on measuring the health impacts of homes and said work on the index was done in collaboration with the Building Research Association of New Zealand (Branz) and based on a similar check-list produced in the UK.

At 42 pages, it was “quite comprehensive” but Mr Caddie suggested that it could be administered for less than the cost of one week’s rent.

“It will be a long time before something like this becomes law, but if there was enough support locally it may be possible to introduce a by-law requiring landlords to provide prospective tenants with an independent assessment based on the new index” said Mr Caddie.

Mr Caddie is standing for the City Ward of Gisborne District Council in upcoming elections and says if elected he would seek Council support to investigate the likely costs and benefits of administering such a system.

“I have been a landlord and I know how easy it is to lose money on rental properties, but I am also aware of some shocking rentals and at present there is nothing that requires landlords to ensure minimum safety and health standards are adhered to.”

Mr Caddie believes such a system would help property owners ensure the value of their assets was maintained and having an independent assessment before renting could be useful when there are disputes over damage allegedly caused by tenants.

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References:

http://sustainablecities.org.nz/members/michael-keall

www.healthyhousing.org.nz

Future of Housing in Gisborne

Our house at 21 Cambridge Tce when we bought it in 2004.

Housing advocates in Gisborne are welcoming government plans to encourage more community owned social housing and plan to share their reaction to the recently released Housing Shareholders Advisory Group report with East Coast MP Anne Tolley at a meeting on Friday.

“If the Minister of Housing is serious about ensuring every person and family has access to affordable, healthy and appropriate housing then we need the kind of innovation and resources that communities can offer and not just the state” said Manu Caddie.

Mr Caddie is the Convenor of Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group (THAG), a network of community groups, government agencies, businesses and individuals with an interest in regional housing issues.

“What we don’t want to see is government offloading its housing responsibilities onto communities that are not prepared for the challenges of housing provision. We desperately need a regional housing plan that identifies the most pressing issues and how those needs can be addressed with a mix of public, private and philanthropic investment. Then we need to look at building the capacity and business plans for one or more organisations to meet the needs.”

Mr Caddie said he was disappointed to receive a letter from Minister of Housing, Phil Heatley, which said Housing NZ should not be helping regions to identify housing needs in local communities.

“If the Minister wants social housing providers to ‘step up’, there will have to be a period of Housing NZ supporting local infrastructure to develop” said Mr Caddie.

Last week the meeting of Tairawhiti Housing Advisory Group discussed plans to establish a social housing trust that could provide emergency accommodation to people made homeless or otherwise forced to live in substandard housing. Without any resourcing to establish such an entity it would be difficult to ensure it is sustainable in the long run.

“It’s easy to say sell off Council’s pensioner flats to a housing trust but developing expertise to manage social housing will take some time and expertise.”

“Housing Cooperatives are very popular in the United Kingdom and the United States, if individual home ownership is not an option for some people then becoming shareholders in a group of properties can foster skills and a change in attitude as co-owners take more responsibility for our own housing needs.”

Mr Caddie said housing advocacy is also a big need in the Gisborne region and that would be another key role for a social housing trust.

“We are currently looking into the viability of local or national legislation that would require every rental property to pass a simple Warrant of Fitness before it can be let.”

Some Gisborne families rent unsafe, unhealthy homes and have few, if any, alternatives.

“The majority of landlords are decent, generous people, but a few refuse to repair run down properties – that can cause a lot of misery and leads to other problems for vulnerable individuals and families.”

THAG discussed Housing NZ waiting lists at its meeting and agreed that compared to larger centres Gisborne has relatively low waiting lists, some of this is because family connections mean there may be more sharing of space available and in remote rural areas housing needs often remain unnoticed by officials.

Another issue THAG is looking into is the possibility of putting a social benefit weighting on state house sales which were also flagged in the Housing Shareholders Advisory Group report.

The THAG meeting discussed a situation last month where a community group tendered for a state house in an unpopular street with the intention of establishing a computer clubhouse, homework centre and neighbourhood meeting space. The tender was won by a private investor who plans to rent out the property.

“It’s stupid that current policy means Housing NZ cannot consider the value a community centre would have added to a neighbourhood desperately short of public amenities to be worth more than the small difference in tender price” said Mr Caddie.

Mr Caddie said THAG will be looking at options for Housing NZ Regional Managers to have more discretion in considering tenders from first home owners, owner-occupiers, social housing providers and charitable community groups alongside private investors.

Our house in 2010... new roof, paint, windows, kitchen, etc.

Big Society – Big Community


David Cameron re-launched his Big Idea this week. The new British prime minister says the ‘Big Society’ concept is about empowering communities, redistributing power and fostering a culture of volunteerism. In a speech in Liverpool, Cameron said community groups should be able to run post offices, libraries, transport services and shape housing projects. While one motive for the Tory version of ‘people power’ is obviously to help lower Britain’s debt which is spiralling out of control, I think there is some substance in the plan.

Modern society has turned many aspects of our lives into commodities. Citizens have been replaced by consumers and nearly all our relationships are mediated by the market. In the market-based society we earn money to pay other people to care for our young and elderly, we become slaves to debt, and outsource our responsibilities. Families become less important and effective and neighbourhoods lose their ability to function properly.

Gisborne has much to offer the rest of the world, and it’s not just a wall of wood, wine or wool. What we can offer is a healthy model of true community – and we are not too far from manifesting that goal.

I was so encouraged to see the big turnout this week to a presentation by historian Jane Luiten on the history of local government on the East Coast. The diversity of our community was represented in the 60 or so people from all walks of life who came to hear some challenging stories from our local history. The interest in this topic from young and old, Maori and Pakeha and new immigrants gave me a deep sense of optimism for the future of our community.

There are a few simple truths that citizens of Gisborne can hold on to if we want to be a place where more people love to live. Our neighbourhoods are the primary source of our health as a community. Whether we are safe and secure in our neighbourhoods is largely within our control. In our neighbourhoods, towns and villages we have the power to build a resilient economy. We are local people who must raise our children.

We live in a democracy, a political system that gives us the freedom to choose a common vision and then make choices that bring that vision into being. But the institutions we look to, whether they are government and its agencies, businesses and the ‘free’ market or civil society organisations cannot make us into a community. Only families and neighbourhoods acting together can create a sense of belonging, unconditional care and acceptance, trust and support.

Community organiser John McKnight suggests a community becomes powerful when three things are happening:

The Giving of Gifts: The gifts of people in our neighbourhood are boundless, every single person has something of value to contribute to our wellbeing.

The Presence of Association: Through association our gifts can be shared, celebrated and magnified and become productive.

The Compassion of Hospitality: There are no strangers here, only friends who haven’t met – we welcome the gifts of new people and need to share our own with them.

The characteristics of the Big Society may also be those of an abundant, healthy community: kindness, generosity, cooperation, forgiveness and the acceptance of fallibility. These virtues aren’t delivered by the market, or by government or local body organisations. They come from within us and could become what makes Gisborne a fantastic place to live.

Kaiti Neighbourhood Meeting to Address Tagging

A neighbourhood meeting to address tagging in Kaiti this week resulted in the development of a community action plan involving much more than painting out tagging.

The meeting attracted more than 20 residents including a number of young people. Meeting organiser Manu Caddie said he was very pleased with the turnout with some very practical ideas being put forward to tackle the causes of tagging.

A presentations from Gisborne District Council town planner Duncan Rothwell provided residents with a range of strategies to make tagging less likely. Using wire fencing instead of planks avoids providing a flat surface which is attractive to taggers.

“A community paint out day is one approach but addressing the issues that create taggers seems like the most sensible strategy to prevent tagging” said Mr Caddie.

The meeting heard from Police Sergeant Greg Lexmond that while tagging was at the lower end of the offending continuum, it is usually done by people under the age of 20 and still important for Police to respond to.

Mr Caddie presented findings from international research on what families can do to prevent young people getting into trouble with the law. Mr Caddie said the four most important things parents and caregivers can do are: spend quality time doing things that the children enjoy; set reasonable boundaries and know where they are and who they are with; encourage participation in positive activities such as sport and kapahaka; and do everything possible to keep them in school.

Presentations by Te Runanga o Ngati Porou staff informed the meeting about a mentoring programme they are working on in Kaiti schools. Ngarimu Simpkins, a Community Development Officer for the Gisborne District Council, presented an idea he is working that will involve taggers in a community art project.

Mr Caddie said Ka Pai Kaiti will continue to work with local organisations, schools and residents to implement the plan coming out of the meeting.

Ideas from meeting participants that will inform the community action plan included:

  1. Working with schools to identify young people who tag their bags and books with opportunities for these young people to be connected into programmes that address identity and belonging issues and expose students to the consequences of tagging.
  2. Utilising local artists and designers including Toihoukura students and staff to assist with mural painting in high risk spots and mentoring young people caught tagging.
  3. Improving Police response to tagging reports and encouraging judges to include educational and identity development opportunities within sentences.
  4. Using positive Maori mentors and educational experiences to ensure that all young Maori in Gisborne have a positive sense of what it means to be Maori instead of the negative self-image many whanau have inherited from society.
  5. Advertising and social marketing targeting young people that helps them understand the cost and impact tagging can have on households and neighbourhoods.
  6. ‘Dream Expo’ hosted by local schools that encourage primary aged children to realise their potential.
  7. Encouraging the establishment of Neighbourhood Watch Groups in areas that are often tagged.
  8. Publicising the profile of the ‘average tagger’ – how they started, what motivates them, what unmet needs they have and how best to steer them away from tagging.
  9. Using schools as significant public assets within communities experiencing high levels of deprivation that can be the base for a range of support services to family and provide moral reasoning (skills to decide what is right and wrong) training for children and young people.
  10. Encourage churches, sports clubs, marae and service clubs to contribute to a community action plan.

What we need is an independent regional think tank…

The quality and importance of a number of recent publications from the New Zealand Institute reminded me of the value of independent think tanks. I believe we need a regional equivalent – something like ‘The Gisborne Institute’.

The purpose of such an entity would be to stimulate debate and progress on critical issues facing the region and to influence regional leadership and policy-making – primarily on economic issues but also social, cultural and environmental development.

Such an institute would collect, analyse and promote the best thinking and evidence from local, national and international sources that can be used by everyone in the region to accelerate sustainable economic, social, cultural and environmental development.

To realise this kind of function and to retain any kind of independent voice it would need to be autonomous from but have constructive relationships with political institutions (regional authorities including Council, iwi organisations and central government), local business networks, special interest groups and political parties.

Why do we need an independent entity to stimulate thinking, debate and action? GDC does not have any spare change and is chronically under-resourced for the responsibilities it has to fulfill. Limitations exist within local authorities and interest groups to think outside the box and undertake the robust independent research and analysis required to find solutions to our most pressing issues.

We need locally focused thinking that isn’t constrained by the pressures on politicians and limitations on what they think is possible – even to investigate. We need good research on what works here and elsewhere that can be learned from and adapted to solve our problems.

The criteria for choosing issues to work on could be based on similar questions to the three that the New Zealand Institute uses:

  1. Does it matter? (Is it a critical issue for the future of the region?)
  2. Do we think we have something new/different and useful to say on the issue that others aren’t looking at?
  3. Is there a window of opportunity to make a difference? (What is happening in the current political/economic environment that would support or limit policy change on this issue?)

Critical issues facing the Gisborne/Tairawhiti region world may include things like:

– population change and positioning the region to attract talent (scientists, entrepreneurs, academics, etc.) and financial investment to support the innovation and development these highly skilled people often need to realise their ideas;

– managing environmental changes including planning for the impact of rapid oil price rises on the region, carbon credit trading, hill country erosion control and the maximising productive use of available land and water resources in the region;

–  increasing net inflows of money to the region from external sources without compromising the assets of the region – primarily through more high value goods and services being sold to customers outside the region;

– cost of living issues including housing affordability and rising fuel and electricity prices;

– reducing disparities in health and education – particularly for young Maori;

– better alignment between the workforce needs of high value industries and training opportunities available to residents;

– the digital divide and the quality/rate of telephone/broadband access in the region.

Such an entity could initially employ just one full time researcher/advisor with a discretionary budget for expert assistance on specific projects, communications and administration overheads.

The institute could exist as a stand-alone organisation or it could be connected to, but at arms length from, the Eastland Community Trust.

A small governance group with representatives from the business and community sectors would oversee the institute with advisory members from the education, cultural and environmental sectors.

My Priorities

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

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

Committee Decision-Making

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Local Government Act Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council Draft 10 Year Plan Submissions

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

Positive Ageing

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

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

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

ACTIONS:

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

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

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

Adults Attitudes Challenged

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What about those of us who are NOT Maori?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What do I know?!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top of my Wish List

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

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

Each plan would include:

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

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

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

  

Council involvement in economic and community development

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

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

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

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

Maori participation in local government

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

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

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

Gisborne Young People

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

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

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

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

Mark Cabaj

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

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

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

Respecting Our Elders

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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