KAIPATIKI: Where do you go to enjoy your local area?

Grant Gillon, Member

There are so many fabulous places to relax and soak up the virtues of Kaipatiki. Two favourite areas are hard to go past. The first is a sunning at Beach Haven wharf and surrounds. There is nothing so soothing as the lap of the sea. I gaze across to ‘Hobbie” and imagine the old flying boats moored off the wharf as I remember.

The other can’t miss is the wonderful Kauri and natural reserve areas of Chatswood, Kauri Park, Le Roys, Kauri Glen and so on. On a hot day, the coolness of the bush refreshes those lucky enough to escape the bustle of our lives. I am not the only one who finds this refreshing, often I meet someone I know or another local being refreshed by the dampness and mottled light.

And then, unfortunately, it is time for work again…

There have been no further responses.

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KAIPATIKI: What is the importance of having Civics classes in school?

Dr Grant Gillon, Member

Recent election low turnouts and democracy related controversies seem to indicate that people can best determine their voting preferences if they are provided with sufficient information. This information includes, of course, positions on policies. But it is also important for an understanding on the process as well. The Prime Minister-elect has also formed strong Executive relationships with there other parties: Act, Maori and United. One question I have been asked was why did he bother. We learnt the answer this week when we learnt that National had lost an MP, since election night, and so no longer has  a majority in the House. As a result, the Green Party gained an extra MP. Obviously, political watchers within the government understood the likelihood of this occurring and deliberately set out to ensure they still had a majority by forming coalition relationships.

So, understanding policies will help us form our vote and understanding process helps us understand who might become our next government regardless of who we voted for.

Who knows? Maybe civics will also increase voter turnout and have other benefits as well. But what is evident is that an educated population enhances democracy and ensures that we enjoy a robust, integral and vibrant democratic society.

No other answers have been submitted.

KAIPATIKI: What is the best way or ways to rally support for policy & votes?

Grant Gillon, Member.

Of course this question is just a cunning plan to seek out candidates’ campaign strategies! But the best way to rally support for policy is to develop policies in collaboration with the community, for what the community wants. Of course there has to be a leadership component but policy developed in isolation from the community is sure to fail; dismally. Its important that the community is able to determine its own future, not leave it to a handful of ideologically driven politicians.

There is a fine line between community co-ordination and community control. Unfortunately, over a period of time some politicians seek to impose their will on the community. And especially in cases where community groups rely on that politician’s benevolence for discretionary grants, the community can remain silent.

So, the key for policy support is to collaborate, consult and listen to the community. Assess the pinch points of community concern and need. Then develop strong, viable and sensible policies to address those needs. The collective view of the community is fascinating to watch. Voters often act in unison, with a similar view, reflecting the community’s myriad of interconnected networks. And that is the foundation of democracy.

It’s good to see some light humour commentary – Secretly going to run my own campaign! Haha but thank you Grant for your comments. This is the only response so far from the Kaipatiki Local Board.

ANSWERS: What is successful policy discussion?

Damian Light, Candidate for Northcote, United Future

This is mostly national as I’m taking experience from my time in a political party but it applies to everything really, even business.

For me good policy discussion is open and honest on all sides – people often have already formed an opinion, but it’s essential that everyone is open to other ideas. Otherwise it just becomes a competition on who can shout the loudest or longest. Having proper research is useful, so the debate can be on facts and figures, not just emotion. That said, people and their needs and wants are essential and discussion should never be cold and heartless. Sometimes the right thing to do, doesn’t make economic sense but it’s still the right thing to do.

I try to frame these sorts of discussion around the problem and then possible solutions. This might seem obvious but it’s essential that the solution addresses the problem, otherwise we end up with policy for the sake of it. It also helps when you have a disagreement, because you take the discussion back to the problem, what we’re trying to achieve. Often it’s helpful to have a broad statement about the sort of outcome you want, to help guide the discussion – a set of values or vision.

I think the most important part is the discussion itself – no politician or political party has all the answers so they need to listen and engage to be able to govern. It needs to be properly moderated so that the debate does not become an argument which can get personal or aggressive. Policy can have significant impact on so many people, so it’s easy to get caught up in the emotion.

Dr. Grant Gillon, Member on the Kaipatiki Local Board

As a local body elected member I consider meaningful policy discussions with the community to be critical to real local democracy. of course many might have different views on what meaningful actually means.

I suggest that it is more than just a discussion that leads to little more than a great chat. In my years in local government I have learnt to understand that the community expects real listening, and honesty, from its politicians. The community expects that policy discussions should involve all sectors of the community including local neighbourhoods, businesses, ratepayer groups, young people, older people and new residents. It does not expect some sectors to be disregarded with off-hand slurs such as being accused of NIMBYs or self-interested. The community also does not expect elected members to be partisan nor controlling in their actions. They expect submissions to be heard and treated with respect and not thoughtlessly discarded.

Too often, politicians form a strong view on what people in the community should be doing. Often this view is based on rigid measures and yet communities and neighbourhoods are not operating to strict rules.

So real community discussions should be centred around communities deciding, within the normal bounds and restrictions,  the future direction of their neighbourhoods. Local councils were established so that communities cooperate together to develop their needs such as water supply and roading.  Although, they should be run efficiently and effectively in a business like manner, they were never established to be economic units in their own right.

Our communities and neighbourhoods should not be subject to the whim, and sometimes force of local councils. We should be particularly mindful of our communities, especially so at a time when the penalties of Council’s overspending are being applied to local boards instead of the grandiose schemes. Our communities should not suffer the proposed 39% cuts in parks, shorter library hours, community halls and pocket parks hocked off just to pay for untested, uncosted and unclear ‘transformational projects’.

So lets hope that there is some real, meaningful engagement and policy discussion and community consultation before the accountants pick up the red pen of local deletions.

Jonathan Coleman, Incumbent, Candidate for Northcote, National

In broad terms, it’s discussion that addresses all aspects of the issue in question, includes a broad range of stakeholders, and produces implementable solutions leading to desired (and desirable) outcomes.

John Gillon, Member on the Kaipatiki Local Board

Successful discussion of policies and projects at a community level is where the community is engaged through a consultation process. Ideally, policies and projects should be inspired and shaped by the “grass-roots” community rather than top-down from Council/Government. Where this has not happened, genuine community engagement must be as widely encompassing as possible.

In the past we’ve had projects that were foisted on communities with very little or token consultation that has caused unrest.

Anne-Elise Smithson, Candidate for Northcote, Greens

A core attribute of the Green philosophy is an emphasis on local, grassroots-level political activity and decision-making. It is crucial that citizens play a direct role in the decisions that influence their lives and their environment.

For example, it is our grassroots membership that discusses, debates and creates all our policies (that you can all find on our website). It is our grassroots membership that decides the list-ranking of our candidates (rather than caucus or people higher up the chain, as in other parties).

Outside of the party, grassroots decision-making is good for communities. And it’s good for democracy.

Another critically interesting view on policy discussion. What I take from this is that people who discuss policy who come out with clear cut proven ways to deal with issues and turn this into policy articles are participating in successful policy discussion. Leave your own ideas in the comments section as always.

You may see some changes happening over the course of the next couple of weeks. Otherwise, see you on Friday with the next question:

 

Theme: Engaging Community
Question: What is the best way or ways to rally support for policy & votes?

Until then,

Dale

ANSWERS: If you could stand by one policy and ensure that it got enacted, what would it be?

Note: Money would not be an object in any of these answers.

In no particular order:

Anne-Elise Smithson, Candidate for Northcote, Green Party

Rivers Clean Enough To Swim In Again. Rivers clean enough to gather seafood from – not just dip your toe in.

It’s quite simple really.

Right now, two thirds of our monitored river swimming sites in NZ are too polluted to swim in.

With the current standards that have been set, some rivers will be allowed to degrade as long as others in a region are improving. That would allow some rivers to have as much nitrogen pollution as the notoriously polluted Yangtze River in China.

Meanwhile, NIWA scientists say that water pollution from decades of farming may be approaching a “tipping point” which threatens marine life in the Hauraki Gulf. This is through build-up of acidity and nutrients flowing from rivers which receive run-off from farms. The question is, how far will we let this go?

The Green Party will use several policy tools to help achieve the goal of ensuring our rivers and lakes are clean enough for swimming. This includes establishing a network of protected rivers and setting up robust standards for clean water.

This policy will deliver what New Zealanders want – clean rivers and lakes.

And it’s about creating a policy that people will benefit from  in decades to come, beyond the electoral cycle. It’s about not passing the buck down the inter-generational line, and making important changes now.  

Lindsay Waugh, Member on the Kaipatiki Local Board

I fully support the city rail link as an absolutely essential piece of infrastructure for Auckland. This city has been victim of too much short term thinking for generations. The debate should not be focused on the cost of this vital infrastructure. The focus of the debate should be on the cost of NOT building this PT link on the economic sustainability of  Auckland and New Zealand.

Richard Hills, Member on the Kaipatiki Local Board, Candidate for Northcote, Labour

To me I’m passionate about our Youth Policies around apprenticeships, jobs & support services, but I think our Kiwibuild policy would be the most important to get through to make the most difference. To help get people into houses, to create jobs & growth.

So many people are hurting in our community and the biggest thing they’re talking about is housing at all levels. If we can work with social housing providers, council and make sure we build enough state housing too there will be massive positive change across the country.

It’s crucial we act on housing now.

Jonathan Coleman, Incumbent, Candidate for Northcote, National

I would like to see a long term steady downward trend in assaults on children.

Gil Ho, Candidate for Northcote,  Internet Party

Digital Economy & Innovation

Why? Additional source of export revenue means more jobs and a bigger pie.

 Damian Light, Candidate for Northcote, United Future

This is a tough one, there are so many answers I can think of. But if it had to be one policy, it would be a fully funded education system.

We’ve got some pragmatic policies to make this happen in steps like abolishing tertiary education fees and improving classroom sizes.

But if money was not an issue then we could have the best education system in the world, one that unlocks the potential of people so they can achieve what they want.

A system that fully supports children with disabilities, with high quality, early intervention to ensure that they’re not being left behind. One that can identify children who are struggling with literacy and numeracy so we can help them with extra tuition as early as possible. It would have the ability to cope with gifted children also, help them achieve their full potential, without negatively impacting the other students. A system that was not just about maths and English, but also arts and culture, life and social skills. This wouldn’t’ end at school, but be a lifelong education system, helping parents adapt to having children, upskilling through their work and helping them adjust to new opportunities and technology. Our people would understand their heritage and history, where NZ fits into the world.

Education would help other areas too – for example our justice system is full of people who are struggling to find their place in society because they cannot read or write, they cannot get jobs and end up turning to crime. It’s not the only reason people end up in the justice system, but a significant one.

Dr. Grant Gillon, Member on Kaipatiki & Devonport Local Boards

Local councils always used to be about local communities. Local democracy was established to get things done for neighbourhoods and most councils started out as road boards, developing roads that were formed for walking or as horse and cart routes between neighbours. These boards later included water boards and drainage boards and so on. Eventually we were ‘given’ the Auckland Council. But it seems as if the local has turned into corporate.
Communities are now stakeholders. Elected members are a nuisance to the bureaucrats who have ideologically driven views of what other people’s neighbourhoods should look like.
So, if I could stand by one policy and ensure that it got enacted, it would be to develop village planning groups in many of our neighbourhoods. This is more than placemaking which focuses more on single projects. This would mean more than just contracting community volunteers to do work that Council is not prepared to pay full rates for. This village planning would empower communities to discuss, decide upon and develop their own futures. This will be true community development, not community control as we so often see in local government these days.

John Gillon and Anne Hartley haven’t submitted their answers.

This is another edition of pure information. I think this is one of the great things about this blog, our community and even democracy. To see our representatives each stand for something different from each other but each of these have very good points. What do you think about what’s been said?

Next week’s question has been sent out to the candidates. It is: What is successful policy discussion?

Until next time,

Dale

ANSWERS: What are the important discussions you have around the dinner table?

In no particular order:

Hon. Jonathan Coleman, Incumbent, Candidate for Northcote, National

Like any other family with young children, our dinner table conversation is focussed on things that we can talk to the kids about.  This is a sample of the sort of things that come up.

What happened at school today?

Have you seen the news today?

If you don’t come back to the table, you’re getting a screen ban.

Have you made your birthday party list yet?

What are our plans for Saturday night?

Eat your vegetables!

Damian Light, Candidate for Northcote, United Future

Generally we talk about our day, what we’ve been up to and how it went. Dinner time is a good opportunity to unwind after a busy day.

It might seem strange to some, but we actually don’t discuss politics very often, even in election year. However, we do talk about government and its role in helping people, enabling them to live their lives. We talk about the challenges that we see and the potential solutions. There are some great challenges we face as a country but also as a local community – however, we’re also making some progress.

When we do talk politics or politicians, its generally about the policies, not the personalities. I’ve had the opportunity of meeting a number of politicians during my campaigns and they all seem like decent people, trying to do what they think is best.

When I was living at home, we used to have regular debates (aka arguments) about politics – my family has a wide spectrum of political views. I think that’s where I learned to argue properly and also grow a thicker skin! I sometimes miss those discussions, but most family events someone raises politics and away we go.

I think the most important part for me is the discussion – I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and its really important for everyone (myself included) to hear other points of view. It’s how we grow and learn, at any age.

Gil Ho, Candidate for Northcote, Internet Party

The important discussions I have around the dinner table are about my family’s future. We talk about where to buy a house, how long we have to save and how we are going to save. Another topic I talk a lot about is my work. I know my work stories aren’t probably fun for my audience to listen to but I tend to talk about it anyway.

Anne Hartley, Deputy Chair on Kaipatiki Local Board

Topics of the day. Politics local national and international. Sport. Family-what people are doing. Home Projects etc.

Lindsay Waugh, Member on Kaipatiki Local Board

Currently it is all about the election and how current revelations are illustrative of a significant change in NZ society and the progressive erosion of ethical standards of leadership. The increasing gap between rich and poor is growing as well as in increasing number of families that can be categorised as the “working poor” is a significant departure from the values this country used to champion.

The other key topic frequently under discussion is the ever increasing cost of housing in Auckland and how our children and their families will ever be able to afford their own home. Without that stake in NZ will our children stay in NZ or will they find more security,  support and opportunities for their families  in other cities around the world.

Richard Hills, Member on the Kaipatiki Local Board, Candidate for Northcote, Labour

Generally we discuss how everyone’s day is going. But also important political discussions obviously come up and how we can make things better for our community, especially for young people. Whether it’s around jobs or support services and making sure young people have a voice in the community.

Dr. Grant Gillon, Member on the Kaipatiki Local Board

If we read social history about families in New Zealand, important discussions always seemed to take place over the dinner table after dad came home from work. But, like the definition of family and work, the dinner table have differing understandings in today’s New Zealand society. In my case, the dinner table sits dusty in another room mainly because the dinner time is flexible. Most family catch-ups occur throughout the day with regular texts, emails and Facebook updates. For me the ‘dinner table’ discussions now take place early in the morning over breakfast or after 8 or 9pm when I get home. This is the important time of the day for me to discuss important issues. Once the burdens of the day have been unloaded the topic invariable turns to the political happenings of the day. And lately they have been numerous, complex, convoluted and sometimes exciting. They have revolved around both Wellington and Auckland.

I have heard the ‘Whalegate’ issues dismissed as either gossip or time to get back to the real issues. I suspect those people are either policy wonks or supporters who see current government through the proverbial rosy spectacles. I see a darker tinge. NZ consistently leads the listings of the least corrupt countries in the world. And I think most NZrs are proud of that reputation. But, recent changes in local government and central government allows big money to be coined by the unscrupulous. So if we delve past the gossip and focus on the impact of the events then we notice a disturbing trend of increasingly cynical manipulation of media stories and events to deceive the public.

Some of the harshest regimes in history have arisen when the public becomes distrustful of their country institutions, media, government and administrations. It is important to have a full and independent inquiry of the goings on so that people’s trust in the democratic processes and our (largely unwritten) constitution is maintained.

This week Auckland Mayor, Len Brown, announced his plan to slash spending in two of our most important aspects of local government: parks and community facilities; and transport. Both capital budgets are proposed to be trimmed by between 30 and 40 per cent. This means that local proposals that were consulted upon years ago are set to be cut. It also means that large glamour projects seem to be retained. So our local communities are taking  a big hit.  What is lost in the debate is that the so called average rates increase is on the back of a large decrease for businesses and a higher than average rates increase for households, many of whom have suffered average 10 per cent increases since Auckland Council came into being.

And if people cannot trust our government in Wellington it is harder for them to trust our local government in Auckland. There is time for it to all play out but the future looks grim, especially for those households who wonder what their massive rates bill is actually paying for.

That is why the recent goings on in the Beehive are an important topic in our family’s ‘dinner table’.

John Gillon hasn’t submitted his answer for this weeks question. There has been no editing of the answers – including spelling and grammar checks. These are direct copy and pastes from the files.

There are some very intriguing answers as well. I’ve found out a bit more about those who represent. I don’t know about you, but I didn’t know that Jonathan Coleman had kids! Awesome stuff. It’s good to see we have politicians who are worried about our housing market as well. It does seem to be a worry.

Next week’s question:

If you could stand by one policy and ensure that it got enacted, what would it be?

This is given to our panel with money not being an object, so I can’t until next Friday to find out what they have for us!

Until next time

Dale