Participation in local government, particularly in elections should be looked upon as one of our great shames. With only 42% of eligible New Zealand voters bothering to cast a ballot in Council elections, we only have ourselves to blame when decisions are made that we may not approve of or support. Just why we are so apathetic when it comes to voting for the people who raise our rates, dog registrations and pool fees is as mysterious as the Bermuda Triangle. Our apathy in participating in local government processes is deeply concerning given the deep reach that Council’s have into out lives and our pockets. Recently, my 19 year old student daughter was home from her flat and the topic of the national elections came up. My wife and I were horrified when she said she wasn’t enrolled and probably wouldn’t bother to vote! What kind of monster had we raised, or had our real daughter been abducted by aliens? Understandably, there were harsh words in the Pope family, accusatory finger wagging and eventually a promise to get enrolled which she did. It’s not just young people who are apathetic about government and its processes, how often have I heard people say they won’t participate because “they won’t listen anyway.” My argument to that pearl, is that it may take a few attempts, but eventually you will prevail.
I raise our apathy about local government because the City Council is now working towards the 2021-2031 Long Term Plan and Council is beginning the process of asking what are our priorities. Similarly, Community Boards are working on those priorities in their Community Plans for presentation to Council on behalf of their communities. Its too easy for the community to allow the Board to act and speak for them, when actually Board’s need vocal people to support them. If we all don’t actively participate in this process we may miss out on seeing our community needs met or worse. With participation so important it was a great pleasure to have representatives of the three Peninsula schools at our recent Community Board meeting. Their presentations were intelligent and insightful, and they focused on a great range of topics that affect them in our Peninsula community. The Board was very impressed with their ideas and they have set a standard for the rest of the community.
(Written for The Star Community Voice, 1st October 2020)
With the Christmas holiday period fast approaching, we tend to get drawn into the whirlpool of planning family gatherings, school break ups, shopping and overloading our fridges beyond their intended capacity. Worrying whether we should have ham or chicken and will grandma be all right sleeping on a camp stretcher in the spare room removes us from some of the real issues around this period. The holiday season can be a difficult time for some families and individuals. Financial, familial stress, loneliness and isolation are often exacerbated at this time of the year, as people come to terms with the holidays and all that goes with it. Christmas is a time for families and a time for giving, but it’s an opportunity to think about our wider community whanau and their needs. It’s about giving just a fraction of your time in this frantic time to others. Reaching out to people who live on their own, or neighbours you don’t see often helps to break down the isolation others may feel at Christmas. I encourage everyone on the Otago Peninsula to put down the tinsel and the lights for a moment and think about the people around you and how Christmas may look to them.
The recent eruption of White Island/Whakaari and the death and injuries to the cruise ship passengers and their guides was a terrible tragedy. The violence and suddenness of the eruption took the country by surprise and it’s hard not to feel great sympathy for everyone involved. A great deal of credit goes to the many people who have been brave and tireless in the care and welfare of the dead and injured. The cruise ship industry has become an economic staple of the Dunedin economy, with thousands of tourists visiting our city and the Otago Peninsula every year. How we care for tourists and keep them safe while they’re in our city, on our roads and visiting our attractions is something we must be very mindful of. It also brings up the continual quest by communities to ensure that we have the infrastructure and services to cope with the impacts of tourism. It’s a particularly pertinent time to consider those matters as we approach the hospital rebuild and 2020’s Council Annual Plan.
Finally, to all of the community, I wish you a safe and happy holiday period. Be good to one another, enjoy each other’s company and come back in 2020 refreshed and ready for the new year’s challenges.
The debate between the Otago Peninsula community and the Otago Regional Council over the provision of bus services for school commuters has been a long and arduous one. Recently, local parent Jason Graham and I presented a petition of nearly 1000 signatures seeking three very simple things;
A timetable change
An additional bus to create a half hourly service like the rest of the city
A minor route change that caters for all users.
Over the course of the bus argument the way in which the community has presented well researched, reasoned and pragmatic solutions has been difficult for the Regional Council to answer. Combine that with a sympathetic media and the campaign has been very effective. However, what has also been effective is the way the community removed the emotion from the debate. That has allowed a far more compelling and coherent argument to be presented. Whether that will be successful is now up for debate. The community has been united over this issue and has shown considerable resolve. I can only hope that it’s not in vain.