Following is my first assignment for a course I am studying with The Mind Lab. Leading Beyond Sustainability. It is an argument pro localism.
How might a localism model provide a pathway for authentic sustainable practises that empower local communities to shine?
This paper advocates for more devolvement of power and accountability from central government to a local level, whether it be via local government or, potentially, certain not-for-profit community organisations.
It is acknowledged at the offset that although Local Government is ‘local’ there is debate around how well it can serve the communities it represents. Take the Far North for example. A geographical size of 7,324 km², with a population of 68,500 or around 9.75 persons per square kilometre. It is a district with areas of high deprivation, inequality issues and aging infrastructure. With a ratepayer base of less than 40,000, it is extremely difficult to deliver on the needs, let alone the wants.
What is localism? Wikipedia describes it as a range of political philosophies which prioritise the local. (1) The Commission on the Future of Localism states ‘Localism must be about giving voice, choice and control to communities who are seldom heard by our political and economic institutions. Localism should enable local solutions through partnership and collaboration around place, and provide the conditions for social action to thrive.’ (2)
Along with a local example of ‘social action’ in action, this paper uses a Local Government New Zealand initiative – LocalismNZ as a foundation. A discussion paper was launched in July 2019 (3). Of recent it has been incorporated into the Future of Local Government review, now underway.
A key driver for LocalismNZ is the way in which Aotearoa - New Zealand is governed – in that it is unusually centralised (and arguably becoming more so). Local Government in New Zealand spends about 12 percent of public funds compared to near half in other developed western countries.
Although LocalismNZ does not discuss sustainability specifically, many of the ten reasons provided do capture the essence. These include building community resilience; power and authority being shared around; and a more efficient and effective way of meeting community needs.
It’s also good for local democracy! If we consider the growing global discontent in public services (4), in which we are seeing decreasing voter turnout, confidence in democracy waning, trust and dissatisfaction in public services also dropping, it definitely signals that something is seriously amiss with the current system.
‘On a conceptual level, there are important affinities between localism and deliberative democracy. This concerns mainly the democratic goal of engaging citizens in decisions that affect them. Consequently, localism will encourage stronger democratic and political participatory forums and widening public sphere connectivity.’
David J. Hess
It’s important to be mindful that the majority of policy is a ‘one size fits all’ approach. In Aotearoa -New Zealand where there are clear differences between rural and urban environmental settings, policy, which is often developed to meet the needs of the majority, thus urban, can have some serious negative impacts on rural living.
Along with strengthening democracy, a thriving Localism approach will have positive impacts on a number of the Sustainable Development goals. For example:
If we look to Te Ao Maori, the understanding that all is connected, it makes sense to trust and empower communities to make decisions that immediately affect them.
Ko au te taiao, ko te taiao ko au - I am the environment and the environment is I. (6)
Localism also offers an opportunity to change mindsets, which will influence sustainability and beyond. To move from a ‘me’ to ‘us’ approach. Putting local decisions back into the hands of communities it affects, helps create collective thinking that shares and cares, grows understanding and respect. Rather than the all too common individual approach of ‘not in my backyard.’
As with all things, there are challenges that would need to be addressed, potentially including ‘flying the plane while building it.’ Others include the need to ensure that the community of interest has the desire to take charge and if so, feel they will be trusted and empowered to lead.
With many conflicting pressures, particularly so if poverty is in the mix (7), sometimes there is not the capacity to step into this space. Having said that, this does provide a good argument to support communities in such space, to encourage them to consider local solutions.
Another challenge is resource. Whether this be expertise, time, investment or other, inadequate resource commitment can be extremely detrimental to the success of this approach. Having said that, it can also create a space for great innovation.
A ‘LOCAL’ EXAMPLE
Through high frustrations of ‘inattention’ from the local council, Focus Paihia Community Charitable Trust (FPCCT) was founded (8). Supreme winner of the Trustpower National Community Awards in 2014 and winner of the New Zealand Community of the Year 2015, it’s a grass-roots organisation that was born out of the belief that Paihia has the potential to become an exceptional place to live, work and visit.
A not-for-profit volunteer group, formally set up in 2010, the Trusts’ objectives are:
-Celebrating our cultural diversity by - respecting our past - thriving in our present - creating our future
-A contemporary, maritime village that embraces its cultural heritage and protects its natural
-World renowned for providing exceptional experiences
-Infrastructure complements and enables sustainable development
-A connected community where we all feel safe, included and valued
-Together, man and nature succeeding in harmony
While sustainability is not clearly identified, the goals articulate an authentic approach to growing community strength and connection, while recognising the importance of all four well-beings.
The Trust has had a significant impact on the look and feel of the community and is somewhat the envy of other areas. From redeveloping a carpark into an award-winning community space (9), regular community working bees, building and managing the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park (10) to installing CCTV, which is having immediate impacts (11). These, along with numerous other projects, have uplifted what was once a tired environment.
One particular project saw the renovation of a public toilet block (with an open sewer and labelled the worst toilet in New Zealand) transformed by volunteers in just 10 days for a cost of $13k. It was estimated it would have cost council in the vicinity of $150k. (This supports another of LocalismNZs’ 10 reasons in that it reduces cost to overall government).
Another example of its sustainable approach, was a focus on being self-sustaining - not having to rely on grants and external funding. The Trust undertakes a number of activities to address this. These include operating a community op shop (in which it owns the building) again run by volunteers. Profit last financial year was $128k. It also holds contracts with the local council for town maintenance and beautification, along with managing the village green.
It clearly meets the Sustainable Cities and Communities goal of being inclusive, safe and resilient, as the CCTV project has illustrated.
It can, however, be argued that one of the greatest outcomes is the binding of a previously disconnected community. That Paihia found its heart, through building strong community connections via projects and activities that sought to celebrate community spirit.
The reason for its many successes can be attributed to the leadership of the Trust along with its strong volunteer base. It has and will continue to have challenges, as is inevitable, particularly within small communities. One way to address this will be to ensure it continues to fairly represent the wider community.
Another observation will be the need to reflect and evolve the organisation as community priorities flex and change, along with regional, national and global pressures.
The recent challenges around Covid-19 and the huge impact it has had on the tourism industry, a staple economy for Paihia, provides the Trust with an opportunity to consider how it continues to unite and uplift the citizens, as human connection is even more vital during difficult times.
Its original focus of community beautifying projects has generally run its course (there’s not a lot left to do!) Future focus will need to ensure clarity around its role and clear pathways to continue to support community aspirations. There will always be a need to be inclusive, open and transparent working within this diverse community.
FPCCT, a highly successful model, strongly demonstrates the argument for Localism and community empowerment. It clearly shows that communities are capable of making decisions and acting on the things that affect them and with much less cost and bureaucracy.
Note: for transparency I was a key instigator of Focus Paihia.
‘Extreme concentration of power and authority is a risk to all societies. Localism is one way of ensuring that power and authority is spread around communities rather than concentrated in one place. Empowering communities provides a check and balance on central government as it gives citizens a level of autonomy and self-governance on local matters. The result is stronger democracy all around.’ (12)
David J Hess
Aotearoa – New Zealand is a small country, a ‘young’ country. We are also an innovative and dynamic country. There is opportunity to be world leaders in how we look after our people, our place. I believe that a Localism approach offers a pathway forward that truly reflects respect and celebrates our strength and our diversity, in that communities are empowered to do what works for them in an open, effective and efficient manner.
Localism does not offer all the answers, but it certainly provides an opportunity for a creative step in the right direction when it comes to empowering strong and thriving communities. Focus Paihia is proof of this.
As an ex-elected member, looking to run again in this year’s local government elections, it will be a cornerstone in my approach to supporting the people I serve. Local Government would need to ensure stronger connections, open communication and transparency in its actions. There would also be a need to address bureaucracy and potentially legislation to allow for a truly vibrant approach.
If we are to look to a model that has the potential to strongly demonstrate leadership for authentic sustainability, where the motivations for doing the right thing is paramount and etched into value and purpose, Localism, whether for better democracy, stronger communities or more efficiency and effectiveness, ticks many boxes.
Nga mihi to study colleagues Jo Perkins and Martin Kaipo for sharing their wisdom and expertise.
Appreciate the support of the Focus Paihia Community Charitable Trust.
‘Think and do a whole other way.’
Reading these words gives me pause. What exactly could this look and feel like if we are to think and do a whole other way? And why would we?
Firstly, other doesn’t necessarily mean new. Nor does it mean different - you can do the same thing in a different way (producing the same results). ‘Other denotes a person or thing that is different or distinct from one already mentioned or known about.'
We are at a major crossroads. Which answers the why.
Around the world we are seeing public systems failing - both for Mother Earth and humanity.
Erosion of trust. Infrastructure degrade. Promises not kept. Serious environmental decline. Mounting debt. Growing divide. Secrets and lies. The list is long.
This is not new of course. Centuries of leaders from many different cultures and beliefs have taken the approach of taking/manipulating/scaring for power and control.
And if you think I’m being a bit harsh, consider the ongoing centralisation of our country’s public assets and services. Consider the ongoing dis-empowerment of communities (whether of interest or geographically) to make decisions that affect them directly.
If democracy is government by the people and ‘the people’ are the entire body of the citizens … when did it become acceptable that the people lost their voice in our democracy?
Now imagine if a whole other way was empowered through asking the conscious question of ‘what would love do?’
Imagine a community, a district, a nation that made decisions from a place of deep affection. In other words, with genuine care and respect for its people and its place.
What might it encourage? Celebration for and of one another? Prosperity? A sense of safety and security? Respect for our planet? Personal accountability? Tolerance?
As we begin to move into both local and central body pre-election activities, it is a time to seriously consider our collective future.
Our focus needs to be on brave policy and smart approaches that empowers and protects. That holds our people and our place at the very heart of all that it undertakes.
This is what love would do.
This morning I had the wonder of waking up next to the ocean. Taking my cuppa, I wandered along the beach, the new days sun warming me through.
A deep feeling of gratitude and happiness came over me.
It got me pondering. In these crazy times, how many of us are standing in the very moment and recognising all that is amazing. How many of us are remembering to stop and breath, deeply. Grounding into Papatūānuku, allowing her to hold us, even for a brief while.
There’s an old saying ‘where your focus goes, energy flows.’ In other words, consider what you are bringing (potentially without realising it) into your life.
What are you reading? What are you watching? What are you hearing? What are you feeding? Fear or Hope? Draining or Uplifting? Division or Unity? Apathy or Empathy?
Or are you just plain over it all?
I ask at this time, because I am seriously concerned about the (mental) health and well-being of Kiwi’s. I’m concerned about mid to long term impacts, particularly for our children.
It feels that this feeling of fear, that manifests in many different guises, is really heightened at the moment, with what is happening in our own country and around the world.
It’s not that there hasn’t always been challenges, always been something to worry us. There has and potentially always will be – if we choose.
I think one of the greatest things we can do as individuals is learn to only focus on what we can control. And yep, this is an oldy too. But worth reiterating.
Putting energy (worry) into things you can’t control can create unwanted outcomes, including ill-health. We can’t control what others think, do, feel. We can’t control world events. We can’t control the weather.
It’s worth noting that we can choose (consciously or unconsciously) to allow others to control us. And, yes of course, we can manipulate and be manipulated. This tends to only work for so long before consequences reveal themselves. Free will and all that.
If we focus on things we can control, mainly our (re) actions, then we can do something about it. Whether this be recognising unhealthy patterns (and addressing this), what makes us happy (doing more of this!) or just holding the awareness within ourselves (without feeding it).
I know there is a LOT going on at the moment. I’m not saying put your head in the sand and hope it all goes away. What I am encouraging is to take a moment to just be in the moment. To focus on all that is right in your world.
Allow this feeling to fill you. To calm you. To hold you.
Also, maybe take a moment to consider what you are allowing into your thoughts, your mind. ‘Being healthy’ isn't just about our physical being, it’s our mental too.
If you’re struggling to find sunshine in your day, please, please reach out. There is so many people that care for you. Truth.
You do have a choice in all this.
It’s being a time of observation of recent past and current events. Experiencing feelings of sadness, frustration, hurt, anger, hope and aroha – not all at the same time thank goodness.
This world of duality, where we generally have a ‘one’s wrong, one’s right’ approach.
It seems we humans can’t quite get to grips with the idea that maybe both parties are right some of the time. In the current situation, many have valid arguments, have valid fears and are holding strongly to their own personal truth.
The reality is at the mo, it is very difficult to know what the facts are, as we get constantly bombarded from all sides. Most of these experienced experts will be sharing some fact, mixed in with some assumptions, have some omissions and maybe adding a bit of storytelling – we are human after all.
We all have biases. We all see what we want to see. Believe what we choose to believe. And let’s not underestimate the amount of fear that is being currently generated. This too is incredibly motivating (and controlling).
As with all things, people will find their truth amongst this. And who am I to say they are wrong? Who am I to assume I know what they know, have experienced what they have experienced?
The point being, there should be no shame in holding an opinion contrary to others. Isn’t that what freedom (of speech) is all about?
I might absolutely disagree and have my own truths to back me up. But what I have learnt (and continue to learn) is sometimes it’s really healthy to agree to disagree. To allow others to walk their truth, learn and grow from their journey and me from my own.
To offer advice only when asked. It’s called respect.
When the next debate comes along and we find ourselves on opposite sides of yet another dilemma, wouldn’t it be wonderful to know we can recognise that our opposing opinions might be where our strength lies?
Because this is how we learn and grow – as individuals and as a nation. Our decisions can be richer and wiser just through the ability to empathise with others.
This is not to say one shouldn’t stand strongly in what one believes. We absolutely should! Particularly so if there are injustices, which there are.
It is to say we need to be mindful others will have different views and can feel just as strongly about them. And that’s okay. It’s healthy. It’s democracy. It’s also completely normal.
The word advocate and enquiry come to mind. One is to have formed an opinion and then encourage others to think the same. The other is to come with an open mind. To maybe hold an idea but be open to hear and consider what others have to say.
We are at an incredibly important crossroads and the question needs to be asked. What world do we wish to live in, raise our children in?
One of respect? One of building strength and commonality through diversity?
Or one of bitter division?
I would suggest one that we are empowered to think and create. One where transparency, freedom of choice and equality are all highly valued, as this is our right, our strength and our power.
It is time to choose a new path.
NYC Midnight #ssc2022
Genre: Political Satire
Subject: A collaboration
Character: A cheapskate
I quietly turn my back on them. It’s going to be another one of those days.
Spit Polish is already inflated with too many words. Old Op Shop, in stained, brown cardigan, doing the usual snorts in the usual way, strides around the room, chest puffed out.
Shiny Shoes smells like they’ve spent another night sleeping in the pub down the hill. Fortunately, they seem to recognise their own whiff (far too much cologne). Unfortunately, they choose to sink into my favourite old armchair over in the corner. (Leather does have a way of holding all sorts of memories).
A few others, deemed less important by those who feel themselves more important, are seated around the edge. Shoulders slouched on uncomfortable chairs, notebooks in hand. Their air is perceived indifference, waiting for the ‘wise’ words of the important people who make the important decisions.
We all know this is horseshit.
The ones with the real power never show themselves, of course. In fact, I have never even heard them, let alone seen them. I know they exist though. It seems their tyranny arrives via funny little grey people, who pop in every now and again. Or sometimes, something obscure comes through on the big screen.
More often than not their influence is completely hidden behind other actions that motivate the masses to do things. Sometimes against their will it seems. But as we all know, fear has a funny way of getting us to do stuff that we may not otherwise.
This I know for sure.
The one who always wears the funny hats, Shuffles I like to call them, has draped a knee over the corner of the big central table, casually flicking the end of a ballpoint.
Completely distasteful. Even I know that table holds importance. Just the smell of it invokes history – I don’t think they even make things out of that wood anymore.
Then there are the two at the other end of the table – Ice Drop and Lavender. They have their own agenda, making eyes at each other as they do, thinking they are just a little bit smarter than the rest. And to be fair, there is some truth in this. Shame they’re so full of themselves.
Woah, what’s that?
I spin round. Someone new in the room! Oh wow, now that’s class! I haven’t seen anyone from that neck of the woods in here for some time. All smiles and radiant hope. I like her instantly. Trustworthy. I pull myself up, there may be hope in this day after all.
The rest of the room pretend not to notice her. Although this is the reason they are here, of course. Actually, let’s be honest. They don’t like to make a fuss when new people arrive. Seem to deem it unnecessary, inappropriate or similar. The reality is, they do like to remind themselves of their own self inflated importance.
Hopeful, I call her.
She stands centre stage for a moment, casting her eye around the grandness. Seems she’s rather impressed - by the room that is. She even goes over and runs her hand gently over the back of the big chair at the big desk, a touch of, could that be nostalgia, at the corner of her mouth?
It's about this time that Spit Polish decides to acknowledge her. Being the most senior person in the room, the succession of words ceases abruptly. Everyone, including Shiny Shoes, comes to attention.
This always makes me groan a bit, although, I’m not really in a place to pass judgement. This lot – always eager for favours. It’s like, who sits best in class gets to lead the rest to the lunchroom.
Spit Polish goes through the usual blah, blah welcome speech. And that’s what it is, for sure. A fatuous effort to make Hopeful feel like one of the team, albeit it fleetingly.
You know, other important stuff to attend too, so make it quick eh?
Oh, the shame! I roll my eyes and flop down.
Hopeful brings up the big screen. She’s prepared and enthusiastic. I really do like her. Other than Spit Polish and Old Op Shop, who really do need to be seen to be engaged, the others show their usual disinterest, shuffling through their phones or gazing out the window.
It’s all a bit of a ruse of course.
The reality is these things generally go straight over Shuffles’ head. Although capable, Shiny Shoes doesn’t usually focus long enough to comprehend. Too absorbed in how best to scratch the next targets back.
So many colourful pictures with very few words flick across the big screen. Seems there is some sort of Potential Calamity heading our way! It appears it’s really going to affect the masses, and not in a good way, if it all unfolds. Hopeful is talking with great conviction, obviously keenly committed to seeing her proposal materialise.
I also sense a little trepidation.
I’ve got to give her credit though. I think she’s acutely aware convincing them is going to take some doing. I can see she’s up for it though. Turns out my day is definitely not going to be so dull after all. I get myself more comfortable.
I see Ice Drop and Lavender have ceased peeking at each other over the tops of their phones and seem to have taken a genuine interest in Hopeful’s cause.
Wonders never cease.
They too can sense this has merit. Although, the devil in me would suggest they can smell the opportunity. You know, win them a few more fans.
Ironically, the last time they tried that stunt it all backfired. They both ended up with their tails between their legs, on the end of one of Spit Polish’s sermons about the importance of public integrity.
And of course, making the party look good.
Hopeful carries heartily on. She’s really on a roll. And then, yep, right on cue old Op Shop cuts in. Huffing and puffing, noise is made around the assumed cost and the enormous waste of time such an idea will create.
Hopeful must hold some sort of importance, as Spit Polish signals Op Shop to quieten down with the calculated flick of a stern eyebrow. Op Shop is subdued for the moment.
Hopeful continues to do her best to capture her audience. She keeps referring to a Collaboration. Bravely, it appears she wants the room to collaborate with the masses.
Not a word I’ve heard uttered in here for a while, although I do suppose it is the very reason they all come together. By the looks on a few faces, it suggests it’s a completely foreign concept.
I know she knows this is not the norm. I mean, actually listening to the Great Unwashed and then actually working alongside them – like equals!? It just goes against the grain. Don’t get me wrong. They like to throw out the odd bit of encouragement – give the dog a bone right? A couple of tax breaks here, build a bridge there, couple more dollars over there.
It’s how it rolls.
I can see Old Op Shop scratching an ear, always a sign of agitation. With a few minutes to spare, Hopeful concludes with some excellent reasoning as to why this is imperative. She then looks expectantly, first at Spit Polish and then Op Shop, before scanning the room.
Shiny Shoes is leaning forward. Whether in an act to appear interested or just to release a bit of hot air, I’m unsure (hope no pickled onions were consumed last night). Waves a hand with a grunt and sits back to stare out the window.
Never get much out of that one. Maybe a ‘very good dear.’ Oh, and should the person be attractive (with a particularly low neckline) a barely polite comment along the lines of how well they’ve presented themselves. This is offered in this moment.
Spit Polish knows where the buck stops, but Old Op Shop will have a lot to say on this one. The others on the side-line perk up. Here’s one who might just get the nod.
Of the duo up next, Lavender speaks first, as is the norm. The ole good cop, bad cop routine.
They’re careful not to disclose their version of the truth. Rather, Lavender pokes around the edges. First praising and then focusing in on the merits. Clarifying once again the why and checking the facts versus assumptions.
Ice Drop gets the signal and plays the part by picking holes in just about everything before giving a wee nod over to Spit Polish, indicating it’s done. Of course, no acknowledgement to Hopeful directly. Likes to put people ill at ease.
Spit Polish takes a good look at Hopeful, sensing that this woman is indeed the real McCoy. Fresh, smart, inspired. Reminds Spit of the days when first becoming important in the public eye.
Truthfulness and desire to see a better tomorrow had led to the convincing win. Now, all that is a distant memory as the pressures of keeping the masses (quietly) under control has overtaken the dream to bring about a more hopeful future.
And now before them stands that very opportunity. Ready. Willing. Able.
Spit Polish surprises me for a very small moment and acknowledges Hopeful with a few words of encouragement. This of course irritates Op Shop no end. Protocol demands who should speak next.
Spit Polish allows a wee sigh to slip out. Could it be regret? Looking over at Old Op Shop the hand is waved to open the floor.
Op Shop jumps up. The old, scuffed slip-ons hiding a pair of holey socks. Never missing an opportunity to demonstrate miserly ways, the old cheapskate starts with a very poor summary of the concept presented. Even Shiny Shoes raises eyebrows with a look of confusion but says nothing.
Old Op Shop argues that a collaboration will soak up far too much time, which we don’t have with this Calamity knocking at the front door.
And here was I thinking it was a Potential Calamity.
Trying to get the opinions of those who don’t know what they’re talking about is a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money!
Unbelievably, even for Old Op Shop, the suggestion is then made that the notion of collaborating with the masses is tantamount to cooperating with the enemy.
In the act of being transparent, important to note that I’m paraphrasing here. The word ‘enemy’ is my word not theirs (although it infers the same).
Hopeful, forever hopeful, listens to the groundless arguments with gentle eyes and a saddening heart. She straightens her shoulders when Op Shop finishes and looks directly at Spit Polish, who feigns something in an eye and rubs it.
I sense her wisdom. She is wise enough to know not to speak, as ultimately her words will hold no weight should the master not give the nod.
We’re all, well almost, looking with some anticipation at Spit Polish. More than one in the room is hopeful, most indifferent and another now asleep.
I know Spit is deeply aware of the enormity of the decision. Having watched the mannerisms of this individual for some time now, I can tell by the way they have pinched thumb and middle finger together, they are conflicted.
I feel somewhat pleased by this.
I also sense Spit Polish might have come to a different decision a few years ago. So bloody tired. Now set in comfortable ways, empowered by those that will be silenced yet again, Spit Polish resigns with an inaudible sigh and gives a quick and efficient ‘sorry, not today.’
Unsurprisingly, a bone is offered, it’s part of the ploy.
The request is made to modify the proposal and present it to a focus group. Said group to comprise mainly of present members, of course.
I see Old Op Shop’s dowdy face twist into a smile of smug satisfaction. The rest already starting to ready themselves for the next recipient of bad news.
Hopeful, on the cusp of expressing her obvious exasperation, takes a deep breath and has the fortitude to gracefully nod. She pushes her card (again) over to one of the others.
I am, however, incensed and get up to tell them so.
With my legs spread firmly on the worn wooden floor, I bark out my displeasure.
How can they not see that her argument is sound?
This is a bloody good, appropriate approach!
And guess what? Not only might you stop the Calamity but win some brownie points in the process. Elections coming up soon? I mean really, think about it!
They all stop in their tracks, as they do when I robustly voice my opinion. The usual quizzical enquiry hangs on their foreheads before they turn back to their deeds of the day.
Hopeful looks at me with a mix of gratitude and compassion in her eyes.
She gets it. She knows I know.
Even if I am just the dog.
What does leadership need to embrace, or more specifically, how does it need to evolve, to move forward in this heightened time of chaos, conflict and fear? I have been reflecting on this as I observe the ‘goings on’ in our beautiful country, Aotearoa – New Zealand.
It’s fair to say there is some really questionable leadership being shown at national and local levels alike. When I consider the potential motivations and framework in which decisions are being undertaken, I wonder whether these are being made from a place of fear or love.
And before you suggest I am getting all airy fairy, keep in mind that fear encompasses emotions and/or approaches that are manipulative, threatening, frightening, eroding, controlling, etc which can cause anxiety, dis-ease, doubt, panic, control – sound familiar? Whereas love encompasses such things as compassion, kindness, selflessness, care and, one of my favourites, empowerment.
Like many of us – I am deeply saddened by the potential route we are currently heading down – one of dis-unity, one of segregation – desperation. I know with all my heart that this is not who we are. If we were to take out the maddening fear that can distort practical, empathic minds, I know that the majority of Kiwis wish for nothing more than peace of mind and the freedom to choose and do what they believe is best for them and their family (while doing no harm to others).
I am reminded of the old saying ‘where your focus goes, your energy flows’. The more we feed the negative (unintentionally or otherwise), the more it feeds the beast. Whereas if we focus on kindness, compassion, gratitude, truth, we feed hope (interestingly, hope only exists in a place of fear, ie, if we had no fear there would be no need to hope).
So coming back to my pondering, what is it going to take to create a shift in the way we lead – bring in a new dawn so to speak? Whether it be at a national or local level, or maybe more specifically as individuals, in our businesses, communities, homes.
I believe it actually starts with us. Because as we all know, each of us leads by example, often through what we do rather than what we say, although words can be a reflection of our hearts. How we treat people, how we go about doing what we do speaks volumes.
If we are going to create the authentic, trusting and inspiring leadership this country deserves, that each of us deserves, then it is going to require a move from fear-based leadership to aroha, one of honesty, transparency and compassion.
What gives me great hope is there are many leaders already working in this space, often quietly without the noise. It does take some courage to stand in one’s own light, especially if it is seen to go against the norms. And here lies part of the issue - the norms don’t seem to be serving us so well anymore.
It is time to cultivate, to motivate, to consider a new (or not so new) approach to leadership. I choose to be part of this conversation. This action. This doing. This being.
1 November 2021 (first day of spring)
Chef’s Table is deeply resonating with me. I understand why its an award-winning documentary. It’s the deepness, almost pureness and honesty of it. Amazing Chef’s from around the world sharing their stories, their motivations, their reasons.
The more I watch it, the more inspired I am to a, wanna go and eat at most of these places (lol) and b, wanna be part of a movement to preserve - to celebrate our heritage, our culture through local produce.
As we all know, food brings us together. It connects us, reminds us and, it can, heal us – on many levels. Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
Food made with love, always tastes good. And locally produced even better. Jeong Kwan talks of it making people truly happy. And we all know we could do with a bit more of that!
It has got me thinking. Coming out of Covid 19 and the call to support local (as we should), I have been contemplating on what we as Northlanders can do to get a front foot into what I hope will be a new and improved way of going about doing what we do.
Top of my list is our natural environment. There is so much opportunity to do more to protect our whenua, our wai, eradicate pests and generally clean up our backyard – before it’s just too late. Also up there is improving the way we eat, what we eat – which of course relies on great, healthful products – not instant, not full of chemicals or empty calories.
I already know we grow and produce some awesome produce, but I believe we can do a lot more. How do we ensure that we don’t lose certain traditional crops (if we haven’t already)? What is it we can really specialise in, that people will travel to taste and be part of an experience? How do we really promote a local ‘garden to plate’ movement?
Many of the Chef’s featured have put their ‘home’ on the map by celebrating the foods of tradition – foods of their region. They openly pay homage to their heritage and their culture. Some putting their weight behind local only and ensuring heirloom varieties are not lost to mass consumerism and industrialism and lets be honest, the big monopolies. Many have stepped back from following the trend and set their own legacy by paying honour to the purity of the produce and those that farm it.
We need food to live but it should be so much more than that (and I know for many it is). What we put into our bodies effects the way we perform, the way we feel. Clean, fresh food that tastes wholesome and tingles our taste buds will do far more for us than just filling our puku. It is goodness that lifts our hearts.
I know something pretty special is going to come out of all of this upheaval. A renewed hope, a reconnection to what’s truly important – our purpose and our place.
I once read that the only answer in this life, to the loneliness we are all bound to feel, is community. Beautiful.
I came across the term intentional communities a few weeks back and it got me thinking, particularly so after a recent trip to Raglan. What does it mean and why does it resonate so? Well it turns out its meaning was not quite what I had felt (I’ll let you google it) so I thought I would make up my own definition off the cuff, as I believe there is real power in the term.
‘An inclusive community with a vision of who and what they are, with collective agreement to stay true to the course’.
For a long time now things have just happened. People often aren’t included or even notified, things pop up and occasionally fall over. There is often no ‘intent’ - no calculated agreement of who the community wants to be – it just comes about (and there are examples all over the Far North of this, think Whatuwhiwhi for one). This is not necessarily a bad thing, however, I am struck by the growing lack of connection or dis-connect that can arise when things evolve, often for the benefit of the few and the impacts, particularly on small communities, is not fully realised.
When I think of the words intentional in the community sense, I envisage planned and agreed pathways, with agreed intent of who and what that community is. A living example, in my eyes, is Raglan. They have an impressive commitment to recycling, minimal use of plastics and what feels like, a genuine commitment to looking after their place. You can feel the vibe, quite literally.
I used to describe Paihia as a place that just happened, no planning, no forethought. And 10 years ago, one could describe the community as disconnected/transient, no heart I think was the term used. Today, although there are still a few fractions, it does have a vibrant heart and a sense of pride in what the locals have achieved. None of this happened by accident. The community came together and agreed on a pathway, took action and lead the way.
So why might this be important? Building resilience for one. Strengthening connections and growing a community of inclusive, committed citizens is another. Although I didn’t recognise it at the time, growing up in Russell, I clearly remember a sense of connection to my community. People looked out for one another (including the time my father thought that I had drowned swimming off the wharf, only to learn that I had taken a trip with a mate to Paihia on the ferry - I was in big trouble that night). Pretty much, everyone knew everyone and you felt that sense of belonging.
Intentional means deliberate, on purpose. Imagine what the Far North and its many communities might achieve if we became far more intentional in how we went about doing what we do. We might just lead the way for a better tomorrow 😉
If you keep doing what you’re always done, you’ll keep get what you’re always got.
With almost six years experience as deputy mayor and a previous five years, in total, working within local government, I know how Local Government works. I know its challenges and I know its potential.
I am one of the most experienced governance individuals standing here tonight, renowned as a strategic thinker, with a strong background in community development.
I am capable of leading this council into a new era. I hold a clear vision and believe my inclusive leadership style, knowledge and courageous approach will make a genuine difference for you on the ground.
Council is not broken. There are a lot of things that we are doing well, but absolutely acknowledge that there is a whole lot of things we can do much better. Starting with rebuilding trust and becoming a can-do organisation. I believe that we can achieve this and lead the way in how we look after our people and our place.
My four key approaches are:
Doing it our way – localism in action. New Zealand is the third most centralised country in the western world. Just 12% of public funds is spent by local government. We need to cut through the ever growing red tape and become self determining. Together, we know our solutions.
Smarts – we must make smarter decisions, based on where we want to be in the future and not on whats happening in the moment. We have limited resources. The biggest district in the North island, more than 40 communities and less than 40,000 ratepayers.
Let’s get innovative and become a test market for creative thinking. Seaweed production, developing a circular economy, innovative approaches to waste, smarter approaches to housing, supporting our key industries to flourish, the list goes on.
And then there’s the brave decisions that will need to be made around climate change. Addressing our serious affordability issues and creating a future of hope and not one of despair.
Partnerships. We can not successfully move forward if we don’t truly work together. Council is here to serve, our communities to lead.
And last but certainly not least, developing a culture of care. Both within the council organisation and working with you, our communities.
People of Kerikeri. My commitments to you include:
I am an advocate for community empowerment. Future focused, a change agent, a fresh thinker. I have learnt a great deal over the last two terms. I am now ready to lead. I do not have all the answers but I know working together, we will find the solutions.
Your vote for me, is a vote for all of us - our people, our place. I am daring greatly, standing here putting a stake in the ground for our future. I am asking you to stand with me.
Na tatou to wa - it’s our time!
More than any other organisation, councils’ impact on the way we live. From going to the library, maintaining the roads and footpaths to advocating for district support - the results of the actions taken (or not taken) are experienced by all of us at one time or another (often something we think more about when it comes to paying the rates!) There can be confusion about the role of local government, so I thought it useful to provide a bit of an overview of responsibilities.
Firstly, the difference between a regional council and a district council. (We have one regional council in Northland and three district councils; Far North, Whangarei and Kaipara). Regional councils are primarily focused on environmental resource management, flood control, air and water quality, pest control and in some cases (such as Northland) public transport and economic development.
District councils have a really wide range of responsibilities, including governance, local roads, footpaths, three waters, sewerage, bylaws, waste, libraries, parks, recreation, regulations, community development and town planning. You could sum it all up and say we have four key functions; civic leadership, regulatory control, public service provider and infrastructure provision.
It’s important to note, that central government has just passed an Act to reinstate the four well-beings into Local Government Act. This states that councils are to play a broad role in promoting the social, economic, environment, and cultural well-being of their communities, taking a sustainable development approach.
I want to highlight the word promote, in that councils ‘play a broad role in promoting’. As here is where I believe the power lies. There is a lot of services that council does not currently undertake in the public sector. Think health, education, social development, policing, etc. Yet, it now has a mandate to promote, i.e., among other things can be a ‘watchdog’ for the delivery of public services and if they are not delivering, call them to account.
Now, the role of the mayor and councillors. (The Far North has a mayor and nine councillors across three wards. We also have three Community Boards). The Local Government Act defines the role of mayor as providing leadership to the other elected members, be a leader in the community and perform civic duties. Councillors have no specific job description other than to represent their communities. Elected members roles include setting territorial authority plans, policies, making regulatory decisions and reviewing council performance. Each person has one vote.
It is important to emphasis that elected members are in a governance position i.e. they make decisions at a policy/strategic level and not at an operational one (that is for the Chief Executive to lead).
Simply put, Council is here to serve its communities. It has a role to lead and encourage sustainable prosperity and well-being. Council is not in competition. It is not here to make a profit. It is simply here to serve and assist communities to be the most amazing places they can be.