Many households and businesses have frustrations over the availability and quality of broadband in New Zealand. It seems to be taking forever for the fibre network and rural broadband initiatives to become available for many. The Otago Peninsula is no different and given its importance to the local economy as a tourism destination the need for better broadband coverage is becoming more apparent. At a broader level, business, education and community opportunities are being impeded by not having a reliable and accessible service.
No matter what scale business is, the opportunities that broadband provides are immense to improve productivity, the way people work and the way they promote their business. I was asked by the Peninsula Community Board to put together a submission to the Governments Digital Enablement Plan. The submission will be part of the Dunedin city Council’s citywide submission on broadband for Dunedin. I would have liked to have placed the direction of the submission from inquiry from the wider community, but time did not allow that. I’ve tried to provide a balance between business and community needs over the broadband issue so that everyone gets a fair degree of representation. I’m still very open to people contacting me if they have any thoughts or queries about the submission.
The recent Representation Review undertaken by the Dunedin City Council will see major changes to Community Boards across the city. For the Otago Peninsula that means we have lost the Tomahawk area from the Otago Peninsula and next year may lose two of the Board’s members. This appears to be part of a longer term plan by the City Council to abolish Community Boards all together. For me its deeply disappointing to lose part of our community from what has been a traditional part of the Peninsula for more than 150 years. I’ve heard arguments from urban people who areas with Community Boards essentially get two types of representation. To some degree that’s true, but when I look around the city there’s actually a good argument for having more board’s to represent people in urban areas. Take South Dunedin for example, what might an active Community Board have done for this suburb? Perhaps it might not still be waiting after many years for a library to be built.
The other aspect of the Representation Review that I’ve found concerning is the question of value to the community from having a board. It appears that the long-term plan will be to disestablish boards from all communities, and have community groups act as conduits with the City Council. In essence this is a type of community privatisation, where private groups will represent the needs of their community and compete for the small amount of funding in that sector. The trouble with this option is how can the community or the Council actually know whether any one group actually represent the views of any given community? Communities are funny things, often its the squeaky wheel or the loudest voice that is heard first. Sometimes, that’s not always fair and there are examples of local groups claiming to represent the views of the community when they have no such mandate. This is where Community Boards come to the fore, because they are elected bodies with rules around conflicts of interest and representation. They are not serving their own interest, but the collective interest of their communities.
The loss of Community Boards has serious consequences for governance and representational democracy in Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula. More importantly it is breaking up the traditional areas and communities of our city.
The debate over the District Health Board’s proposal to use Auckland based food supply company Compass for hospital meals in Dunedin and Invercargill has caused significant anguish in the community. The proposal will see frozen meals only heated in Dunedin with the loss of about 20% of kitchen jobs run by the SDHB. The anguish the proposal has created in the community has centred around, food quality, loss of local supply, redundancies, and the 15 year contract period. While the SDHB has claimed that the proposal will provide $7 million of savings the community feels that those savings may not eventuate, and there is strong concern over the financial management of Compass.
What has become clear in the argument is the feeling that the community has lost control of the decision-making process and management of their own hospital resources, which will be controlled by a large multi-national company. There is a strong view in the community that the hospital is owned by the community for the community. At the recent Octagon protest many placards revealed “our hospital and “our kitchen” which shows just how strongly people identify with the resource in the city. The other point is the loss of jobs and supply contracts from local people, which has dismayed many, as region’s like Dunedin fight so hard to retain employment in their area.
Community’s and their citizens have very strong social and familial loyalties to where they come from and where they live. Those loyalties may embody other values including strength, commitment and positive parochial feelings of care or stewardship for the community and its institutions. Such characteristics should be maintained and nurtured to ensure a cohesive community that will care for its citizens and have citizens that care for one another. However, it seems that such values have become secondary to the financial gains that may accrue. As regional areas in New Zealand continue to struggle in the present climate, it’s all the more reason that we have faith in local people and local resources in our community.
As April moves rapidly towards ANZAC Day, people across the country draw their attention to local commemorations especially in light of the centenary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli. Today I attended the unveiling of the refurbished Soldiers Memorial in Highcliff Rd on the Otago Peninsula. Despite an icy wet blast many people made the trip to this commanding place with its 360 degree panoramic views of the city. The refurbishment of the memorial was undertaken as a Rotary project that this organisation does so well. The dramatic setting of the Soldiers Memorial is a very tangible link between the Peninsula landscape and its people and a moving place to reflect on those terrible times 100 years ago.
As time moves on and the survivors of both World Wars dwindle in numbers the mantle of commemoration is being passed to a new generation of people across New Zealand. Our commemorations are not just a time to reflect on the values of service and sacrifice, but also on the peace and security that we have enjoyed. With this in mind perhaps we should also reflect on how we can best use this peace to serve our families, our community and our country today. The lasting legacy of New Zealand’s servicemen and women has been that their victories are those of peace not of war. Lest we forget. (Click on the pictures to see in full size)
The Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen once wrote that “a community is like a ship; everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm.” In many respects it was that wish to make a difference and be part of the decision-making process that led me to stand for the Otago Peninsula Community Board. Being prepared “to take the helm” as Ibsen wrote and represent my community in the daily ebbs of flows of community life. As 2014 draws to close its a good time for me to reflect on what the year has brought for me and the community while I have been serving on the Board. Probably most importantly I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the diversity of views that I’ve heard from people in the community. Those views all have one distinct common theme and that is a real concern for the type and nature of the community that people live in on the Peninsula. Some are steeped in the needs of the landscape and conservation management while others are heavily drawn to the facilities, opportunities and needs of the people who create the Peninsula community. All are argued with the same level of passion. I’ve enjoyed my first year on the Community Board mostly because of the people I’ve met and that through that contact I’m able in some small way make a difference to the wider social and political fabric that covers the community. Whether it be bus routes, the Portobello Pontoon or the Tomahawk Lagoon each issue has importance for the community that must deal with these issues on a day-to-day basis. For me it’s not a chore, rather its a challenge that asks me to exercise all of my skill in mediation, listening, planning and problem-solving. Sometimes it’s also about using simple common-sense which I’ve found that Peninsula residents have in droves. Its been an interesting and stimulating year and I’m looking forward to 2015 with similar enthusiasm.
I was at the working bee held at the Portobello Domain, developing the skate park with a great bunch of people and their kids recently. Peninsula communities are so good at getting together and pitching in when there is something that needs to be done, especially when it comes to providing facilities for their kids. It was very pleasing to see so many of the local children take an interest and actively participate in helping the park get up and running. While my days of skate-boarding or scootering are well past there will always be a new generation of kids ready to give riding on wheels a try. Read the full story and view the pictures at the Portobello Community website.