‘The future of every community lies in capturing the passion, energy and imagination of its own people’ said Ernesto Sirolli, founder of the Sirolli Institute. This year’s annual Local Government conference was one of the best I have attended. With a focus on riding the localism wave: putting communities in charge. This philosophy sits firmly with my approach on how local government can move forward. Localism, or what I like to call ‘doing it our way’ isn’t new thinking – in fact it’s a global concept that is reshaping governments around the world, recognising that the best outcomes come from local people making local decisions about the places that we love and live in – a no brainer really.
The good news is that some of our national leaders also recognise the possibility. Minister Nanaia Mahuta stating the need to make it the norm, not the exception and Hon Dame Tariana Turia supporting the need to shift the power and decision-making back to community. Where it should be.
It was a pleasure to hear from Dr Lance O’Sullivan, who was purposely provocative. He noted that there is a need to break down incumbent structures to address the poverty of wealth, culture and spirit. Something that is a struggle for many here in the Far North.
It’s important that we do not underestimate the challenges though. As one speaker noted, bold and visionary leaders are needed in this time. Local government has pretty much had the same approach for decades, only that it has become, in my opinion, more and more bureaucratic, with increasing layers of legislation and process, centralisation and box ticking. In an era of one size fits all policy, growing hopelessness, disconnection, global impacts and climate change, we have come to a point that something needs to give and quickly.
So what could local government look like in the future? That is the whole premise of the localism agenda. We have the potential to become a test case for innovative thinking here in the Far North – lead the way in how local government moves forward. It is stated that localism must be inclusive. As the Commission on the Future of Localism says ‘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.’ Pretty exciting eh?!
The possibilities are huge and could have far reaching consequences for a better tomorrow for our people and our place. It is going to take courage - I believe we are up for it.
To learn more about the localism agenda go to https://localism.nz/.