In the bigger scheme of things, Aotearoa - New Zealand is still a magical place. A country of authenticity, cultural richness and in many places, a backyard like no other. We live in a time however, where our future is uncertain. Our current path – our legacy, is questionable and without intervention and a clear vision for where we wish to go, we are destined to follow the path of a world currently on a tipping point.
On returning from Beijing last November, I shared the idea that we needed to get smarter in our approach to attracting and managing inwards investments. Over the last few months a concept has developed in my thinking and this I have shared with a number of influential people. The feedback has been nothing but positive. The idea is around developing a proactive local policy and partnerships that not only celebrate and care for our people and our place, but importantly, create a legacy that ensures we leave our backyard in a better place for our future kaitiaki.
The aim is to develop a framework that proactively promotes and manages inwards investment (internationally and domestically) that sees the Far North grow and develop in line with the expectations of our district vision; He Whenua Rangatira – A District of Sustainable Prosperity and Wellbeing.
Simply put, we really do need to get smart! Develop a way forward that identifies and enables sustainable and innovative methods that support an environment (people and place) of respect, authenticity and prosperity.
The motivation behind this is that currently foreign inward investment is managed by the OIO (and other government agencies). Local Government has little if any influence on this decision. I believe we can better manage this at the onset by being clear and proactive. Recognising that any investment relationship needs to be mutually beneficial, the framework would aim to provide clarity and support for potential investors to understand the opportunities and the support networks and the terms in which these can be taken advantage of. Noting that such a framework would naturally identify areas that are not supported for investment.
In a nutshell, the approach would be five fold. Address landownership models – focusing on partnership, lease and other relationships rather than foreign ownership. Two, promote robust investment opportunities that focus on industry we wish to encourage (e.g. tourism, aquaculture, horticulture, forestry, marine, farming, energy and manufacturing). Three, identify and legislate areas within the District Plan that promote and enable specific industry development. Four, identify and strengthen key relationships that benefit our communities/district, investors and government. Such as investigating developing Public - Private Partnerships that sustain investment and mutual returns and five, develop processes that support efficiency and cost effectiveness for industry development.
The concept is currently sitting with two ministers. I plan to continue to advocate and work towards progressing the idea into a feasible case over the next few months.
During my speech to an audience of approximately 100 Chinese business leaders in Beijing last Thursday, I highlighted that ‘our focus is not only on improving the life styles of our people today, but ensuring we leave a legacy we can be proud of for the generations to follow.’
Recognising that ‘doing business’ with the Chinese evokes highly emotive and strong arguments for and against, I believe it is naive to dismiss the potential presented. China is a growing superpower and burying our heads in the sand will be to our detriment. We need to grow understanding and build strong relationships to help ensure any developments in the Far North are appropriate and sustainable. No matter the investor.
The trip to China has given me great insight. I have returned more learned. And recognising the real opportunities, I have also quickly come to the conclusion that we need to be very smart and very clear on the investment we are looking for. We need to clearly articulate where foreign investment can take place and what form this might be in. We need to be clear about what development we want to encourage and what we clearly don’t. This is a district conversation.
As we know, affordability is a real issue here in the Far North and a growing one. We do need to think outside the box and we do need to attract investment. There is real opportunity out of China. However, we need that big plan. A clear, strategic long-term plan that is owned by the people.
One of the things you have to truly admire about the Chinese is their long term-vision, that is clearly articulated. They know where they want to go. And we in turn must be clear on where we want to go, at a district and national level.
We spent some time with Tus-Holdings, the Council’s Memorandum of Intent partner, a subsidiary of Tsinghua University, the most prestigious in China. All the conversations were high level and included an introduction to some of the activities their companies undertake. One of the activities was an incubator business programme for recent graduates.
The second part of our journey was hosted by Government leaders. This saw a half-day presentation to business leaders and sowing seeds around commercial opportunities. Being only the first visit since the signing, there was no detailed discussion around the process moving forward and no agreements were signed by our Council. It was a trip focused on growing understanding and building relationships.
I am incredibly grateful to have had this opportunity. We were treated with great respect and their hospitality was second to none. I now hold stronger insights, which I intend to grow. This can only assist me in better serving a district I love. It is, and always has been, my desire to see the Far North flourish, to look after our people and our place for now and future generations.
Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa
Greetings once, greetings twice, greetings thrice to all that have gathered here today.
It is a great honour to be here today. My colleagues and I feel very humbled.
I bring you the warmest greetings today from our Mayor John Carter, who sends his sincere apologies.
I want to firstly say a massive thank you – kia ora! This is truly an auspicious occasion!
A very special thank you to Mr Liang for his most generous hosting and support. We are truly grateful.
I want to acknowledge the deep and long history that the people of New Zealand have with the people of this amazing country, China.
I love New Zealand and am completely in love with our Far North district. It is my home and a truly magical place. One that we are very proud of and cherish greatly.
We have a beautiful, strong and generous people and a wonderful backyard that we like to call ‘our place’.
The Far North is located right at the top of New Zealand. With 7,324 km2 of land area, we are one of the biggest districts in the North Island. We boast a sub-tropical climate, with our seasons being the opposite to yours. Our summer daytime maximum temperatures ranging from 22 up to 30 degrees. We average around 2,000 sunshine hours annually.
We have approximately 42 communities and around 62,000 residents. Almost 50% identify with Maori heritage.
Our key industries currently are mainly primary (such as forestry, horticulture and agriculture). We also have a very buoyant tourism industry, with many people coming to enjoy our beautiful, unspoilt surrounds.
We recognise the immense importance of education and supporting our young people to be well equipped for an ever changing tomorrow.
Our culture and our history is of significant importance and is something we celebrate and cherish greatly.
We have a vision for the Far North, which is He Whenua Rangatira – A district of sustainable prosperity and well-being.
We have a clear purpose. Our strategic intent is to create:
We recognise that to achieve success, we must work together, for a better tomorrow. Our focus is not only on improving the life styles of our people today but ensuring we leave a legacy we can be proud of for the generations to follow.
We view wealth and prosperity holistically i.e. healthy minds, healthy hearts, healthy spirit, healthy environment.
We recognise the importance of building mutually strong relationships, ones built on integrity, respect and openness.
We acknowledge that there must be a high level of trust - that our interactions must be undertaken with complete transparency and wisdom.
Our district has amazing potential. We are committed to serving to the best of our abilities.
Helping build a prosperous future for our people, while ensuring we look after our incredible environment for today and future generations.
I finish in once again, saying kia ora - thank you. Thank you for the time. Thank you for welcoming us into your ‘place’ and making us feel so welcome.
We are deeply appreciative and grateful.
There is a perception that government involvement is ‘doing it to us’. When it comes to central government social investment, intervention or whatever you might like to call it, it’s fair to say we have just about tried every national approach available in terms of making in-roads into our negative statistics. Sadly they have not improved.
There are many arguments about why this is the case. None of which I am going to go into today, simply because it is what it is. However, we are at the forefront of a new time and I am somewhat excited by this. Because we have an opportunity to really take charge of our destiny. I can only assume that the new government will be looking for ground-breaking approaches to break the cycle. The challenge for us will be finding common ground – a united approach across the district. There is some fantastic work already being undertaken and some incredible people leading the charge. The difficulty is that there is often not clear connection between the activities, the ability to share knowledge and combine approaches.
It is my belief that, if we are to make the most of the opportunity before us, we will need to step up with a united voice and clearly own and define our journey. We will need to be brave and be empowered to trail blaze some different approaches. This must be owned and lead by the very people that carry the mandate – the leaders of our communities.
The role of government, whether national or local, is to serve and support the wellbeing of our people and our place. I have no doubt that many of the products and services that have been tried over the years have been undertaken with the best of intentions. However, they have often lacked one common element – local leadership and direction.
To be fair, I have seen lack of local leadership, the indifference, in-fighting, egos and other actions that take away the power of the people. I have also experienced those that have been brave enough to step up and then get pulled down by the nay-sayers and small-mindedness that does not see past the perceived personalities.
So, what will we do to make the real change needed to be our potential? Will we sit back and continue to allow things to happen to us or is there a desire to step up and take our future into our hands? I certainly know there is commitment at a community level. However, when it comes to working with central government, we need to also have a district/regional approach. This requires strong and trusting collaboration. It requires the removal of ‘hats’. It requires a joint effort from a bunch of people determined to make a change.
This is about stepping into our power as a people. No blame, no shame. Owning, celebrating and driving a better future for all of us. The opportunity is knocking.
Although central government leadership is yet to be defined, one thing is for certain. Far North District Councillor Willow-Jean Prime is now a Member of Parliament. I sincerely and wholeheartedly congratulate her. Willow-Jean is a strong advocate for Northland and has a clear understanding of the challenges and the potential. I will, however, miss her (a lot) at our council table. Her professional, fair approach and articulate argument were a real strength, one that she is respected for.
Her resignation will see the commencement of a by-election for the Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Ward. I would like to offer some advice for both prospective candidates and also for those of you voting in this ward (which I hope will be a large majority).
Local government is complicated. It is heavily legislative, carries high expectations from its constituents (as it should) and is quite ‘old-fashioned’ in its approach. Councillors, although elected at a ward level, are sworn in to serve their district. This is a governance role – like a director on a board. I need to emphasise this. You are a decision-maker. Governance means setting policy and direction and not undertaking or getting involved in the operations. Many elected members from across New Zealand fail to recognise and understand the importance of this, which can cause much frustration and unnecessary conflict.
Some other highly-useful approaches include big-picture thinking, being proactive and solution-focused, having patience and choosing one’s battles. Skills needed include having a clear understanding of one’s role as an elected member and the responsibility that comes with this, noting the Far North District Council’s combined operating and capital expenditure in 2017/18 is $186.3 million and, no, this is not nearly enough to achieve all that needs to be done.
Prospective candidates should also know the difference between advocacy and enquiry and be able to articulate their argument clearly, as well as listen and actually hear what is being said. Finally, debate the topic and not the person and, most importantly, recognise that you are part of a team and hold one vote out of ten.
Some will also say you need to have a thick skin. While I understand the importance of not taking things personally – and this isn’t always easy – I also recognise the absolute need for empathy. One needs to be a little hardened to life as a politician, but still be able to genuinely connect to what is truly important – our people and our place.
For those of you voting, it is a wonderful thing to really like the person, but it is more important that you vote for someone that will bring tangible value to the table. They need to have the skills and expertise to provide leadership that will serve our district now and into the future.
The rewards of serving one’s district are immense. Those with a heart to make a difference and a vision for a better tomorrow should be encouraged. And if you don’t have patience now, you will soon develop some if you wish to succeed 😉.
For a long time now social and economic investment has been viewed and undertaken quite separately. And yes, I completely understand the argument for separating investment in people from investment in business – different focus, different activity, different outcomes. I believe, however, that it is time to look again at the two and to begin to treat them more as a partnership.
This is particularly important for our district where many of our communities struggle on both levels. We need to recognise that these two investment strands are strongly interlinked. My argument is that one does not flourish without the other. There are numerous examples of social deprivation impacting on economic opportunities. You just have to look at the fruit picking industry and the fact that people are brought in from overseas to work, although there are plenty here in need of a job.
There should be no mistake that there is a LOT of social investment coming into the Far North from government and other agencies. It is arguable how much of it is actually making a difference to the challenges that many residents face. I have for some time pondered on what can motivate the more challenged ‘clients’ to participate in the opportunities that are available. One reason for this disengagement I would argue is a lack of aspiration or, dare I say, a lack of hope: what reason is there for getting out of bed in the morning? And, if we are honest, there is a deep-down belief that many carry, that they are not worthy or valuable.
So my question is, what if government-supported, economic-investment in the Far North had to meet much wider social-impact criteria and not just commercial outcomes (noting that more jobs is always a good thing).
So, how might this work? Here’s one idea: in communities where there is heavy social investment*, we should also look at developing inspirational economic opportunities that in turn, provide a catalyst for change. We could develop facilities that are beautiful structures in their own right, that celebrate the people and the place they exist in. These will be training grounds, hosting entrepreneurial activities that provide a unique and valued addition to the economy. They could be set-up as social enterprises with a commercial focus, so that profits go back into the communities that support them. Imagine having a commercial activity that the locals feel connected to, are proud of and benefit from.
If we are to make real change for a better tomorrow here in the Far North, we need to move past the reasons of why it’s too hard and instead adopt a ‘yes we can’ default attitude. We need to empower the people. And we certainly need to see that all things are interconnected.
The possibilities of our potential are boundless – we just need to believe.
* It should be noted, that government-supported, social investment should also look to be balanced with economic investment.
I have recently returned from a pretty special holiday celebrating my best mate’s 50th. There is nothing like a break and a change of culture to renew one’s perspective. I came home realising that I was becoming burnt out and had lost not only my balanced view but also, potentially, my sense of humour. I realised that I had become focused on hearing the negative and was allowing this to affect and undermine my sense of self. I had forgotten to ‘know my truth’ and stand strong in my life journey – committed to leaving this place better than I found it.
We all have moments in life when it is hard to see the forest for the trees. Where other’s opinions are loud and harsh. What we tend to forget is that they are only opinions and come from one person’s perspective of life. If they are angry with life, they tend to see only the anger in it, just as if one is happy with life they will look for the good in it.
To be clear feedback is important – even if you don’t have a choice in how it arrives, you do have a choice in how you receive it. It provides the opportunity to review one’s approach, check in so to speak and look at one’s motives. One can choose to learn and grow from the experience; it can strengthen ones resolve or simply be recognised as venting and thus has actually nothing to do with you. The other option is to retaliate like with like or allow it to feed the self doubt and we already live in a world where too many people lack self belief.
So, I’m going to take a leaf out of the Balinese and be more happy. Laugh more often, hug my daughter more, hang out with more good, like-minded people, spend time smelling the roses and being even more grateful for this incredible country that we live in – my golly we are spoilt. Not saying that there isn’t plenty that needs to be addressed – sooner rather than later I trust.
At the end of the day, it’s about perspective and our conscious decision on how we choose to see the world – or more to the point, how we choose to participate. Be part of the problem or be part of the solution. My choice, of course, is to stand tall and be part of the change for a better tomorrow.
Last Saturday I attended the 60th annual conference of the Northland RSA Women’s Section (70th anniversary for the Far North section). I was once again heartened by the beautiful, kind-hearted people who quietly go about making our world a better place and who obviously have lots of fun in the process.
The experience has added to my thoughts on the importance of leadership and what it actually means in this day and age, particularly at a time when I personally struggle to be inspired by some of the current world offerings. When one looks around and takes in what seems to be attracting the attention of the masses, it is no wonder we are where we are – a world on a tipping point.
Google provides a multitude of explanations of what leadership looks like. Some are very insightful. For me, however, it’s simply that our leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some are out in front and others are tucked in behind. These leaders can be doing the mahi, flying the flag, dealing with the strategy… At the end of the day, true leadership is not necessarily a loud voice, or fancy jargon. It is, I believe, bravely speaking the words that need to be heard, undertaking the actions that need to be taken – all with wisdom and integrity. And, without a doubt, it is being part of the team, because leaders are nothing without the team.
It is said that small acts can change the world, and indeed they have. Which brings me to an important point: we are all leaders in our own right. We all have the power to lead our own lives and not just let life happen to us. Whether we choose to make the most of what we have and find we are an inspiration to others, or we purposely put ourselves out there, the reality is that both approaches are important types of leadership.
One of the great challenges for natural leaders (i.e. those not looking solely for glory), is that they often resist the mantle of leadership. Stepping into the limelight has never been easy for these leaders and, in this era of immediate ‘feedback’, it can be a little soul-destroying too. But that feedback can also be very grounding and useful, especially for evolving one’s approach.
When pondering what makes great leaders, look no further than those beating the drum for their communities. The people who stay awake at night wondering how they can help, how they can touch the hearts of the disconnected, how they can make the day of the lonely and raise the aspirations of all those they care deeply about. These are great leaders. Our natural leaders.
In the 1930s local governments’ share of total public expenditure was around 50 per cent. It is now estimated to sit at 11 per cent with central government allocating the remaining 89 per cent. Local Government New Zealand launched its election manifesto at the LGNZ Conference this week. With its vision of “local democracy powering community and national success” and a commitment to localism, there is a clear emphasis on protecting and enhancing local democracy. The manifesto states “New Zealand is now one of the most centralised countries of the OECD with detrimental consequences for our rate of economic growth and local empowerment. Centralised models are often characterised by ‘one size fits all’.”
Lawrence Yule, LGNZ past President, goes on to highlight that “councils have a critical role in ‘place shaping’, that is, determining the character and quality of life of the areas they are elected to govern. Their role is unique as they are the only body that has a specific democratic mandate for ensuring placed-based communities prosper and thrive”.
Most people recognise the many challenges we face here in the Far North. The third biggest district in the North Island with a very low ratepayer base (about a third of our land is in DOC estate, which is unrated), socio-economic challenges and so on. This makes affordability a real issue. We struggle to pay for the necessities let alone the extras our communities desire and deserve. One of the issues identified in the LGNZ manifesto is the legislative framework that governs councils. It is seen as “too constraining, fragmented, complex and fails to incentivise councils to innovate and invest in making their communities better places to live”. Mr Yule concludes “creating more prosperous, vibrant and resilient communities requires a stronger local government system able and empowered to address the challenges we all face. It is an issue that should concern all New Zealanders. It is a matter of urgency”.
The manifesto goes on to outline LGNZ’s strategic policy priorities, of which there are five. At a high level these include: infrastructure; risk and resilience; environment; social (for the first time); and economic (with a focus on the visitor industry).
This is an election year. I urge you to advocate on our district’s behalf with those looking to represent us at central government level. We need an incoming government committed to working more fairly and equitably with local government. We must remember that government is here to serve its people, whether centrally or locally. It is a partnership, and a vital one for the future of this amazing country. The LGNZ 2017 Manifesto makes an excellent argument. For further detail go to: www.lgnz.co.nz.
During the weekend I had the complete pleasure of being a judge at the fabulous Russell Birdman Festival. It is estimated that the population trebled. The town will have enjoyed a roaring trade during our coldest month and the locals had a fun and frivolous weekend.
A few weeks ago, I attended the Kawakawa Business and Community AGM and heard about all the activities they are undertaking to support local prosperity. Focus Paihia is going great-guns with the development of the Waitangi Mountain Bike Park. Love Opua and Vision Kerikeri continue to work on community and people projects. Kaikohe has a group of like-minded individuals focused on regeneration, while Kaitaia has wonderful town beautification activities… and the list goes on.
The common theme, of course, is that all these activities are led by passionate volunteers. People that have chosen to make a difference. Chosen to stick their necks out, to donate time, resources and energy to bring about change in the most proactive, uplifting and encouraging way. These people enrich our communities. They are part of the hope and aspirations so much needed in a time when far too many of our beautiful people struggle with depression, a lack of direction, or who cannot find their place, their value.
For the Far North to truly prosper we need to encourage and support these local leaders. They are role models, change agents; the quiet achievers, making a difference one day at a time. Whether the outcome is purely fun (and we could all do with more laughter), economically driven, advocates or making someone’s day – the purpose is always to make the world a better place. With over 40 communities in the Far North, each with its own identity, its own strengths and challenges, we need to get in behind these local heroes. And if there isn’t one in your community, be one.
Although it can be hard going at times (there are always people ready to throw stones), the rewards are worth it. The personal satisfaction that comes from community success should not be under-estimated. It grows self-worth, and feelings of value and connectedness. Volunteering – the selfless act of giving to others – brings about happiness.
We are a large district with a small population and an even smaller rate base. We need each other. We need strong communities and a strong district. We need to remember that we are all in this together and that our collective approach, our support of each other, can be a game-changer.
So thank you to all our volunteers for being part of making a better, stronger tomorrow. We celebrate you. Nominations for the Far North Citizen Awards close at the end of the month. Let’s celebrate the people making a difference in our communities. Please nominate your local super heroes and let’s honour the difference they are making. For further details go to the FNDC website: www.fndc.govt.nz.