The social service ‘system’ that is supposed to help and protect the most vulnerable and needy in our community is…
These issues are fundamentally the charge of government departments, but because these agencies are essentially faceless and impenetrable at the local level, public upset gets vented at our local elected officials. Some of them try to escape with, ‘Not our job!’; but others accept a responsibility for local councils and councillors to play a role in addressing our social challenges.
Given that it’s local election year, BayBuzz asked two local organisations, Heretaunga Women’s Centre and Napier Pilot City Trust to put forward the social concerns they would like to see local council candidates address.
Issues for Hastings Council Candidates
At the Heretaunga Women’s Centre we see first-hand the social issues faced by women in our community. I have little doubt if there were a Men’s Centre the issues would be much the same.
The 2019 local body elections give us all the opportunity to ask questions about these issues and to know how potential councillors feel and will respond to them.
It also gives us here at the Heretaunga Women’s Centre an opportunity to question and talk about what is happening in our community, how we as a community are coping and, more importantly, how our Council will be planning and implementing working towards addressing and overcoming these challenges.
The biggest social issue on my radar is housing. Everywhere I go women are talking about housing and homelessness.
Heartbreakingly, I have started calling 2019 the ‘Year of Long Sighs’ because of that terrible long sigh I experience when I see a woman (often accompanied by children) arriving at the doors to the Women’s Centre on a Friday afternoon: homeless and desperate … and I know I have no practical help to offer them.
I know first-hand that there are big plans afoot with social housing providers, including Council ramping up building and consents, but while plans are being discussed, women, children and families are living in motels.
In my mind we seem to be continuing to look at older conventional solutions to the problem of creating housing, when a whole rethink of housing is what is really needed. It’s time to be more creative with our housing solution and some out-of-the-box thinking would not go amiss.
My question to councillors is to please think about co-housing models, tiny home villages, cooperative inner-city apartments, and perhaps the freeing up of Council land as well as planning regulations to support alternative solutions. We need to be looking to the future of housing with a wider and fresh thinking lens and it’s urgent we start now.
Following as a very close second is poverty.
As an immigrant to Hawke’s Bay from Northland, I have always been staggered at the anomaly that exists between the two regions. Hawke’s Bay has always seemed so prolific with great soils, temperate climate, artesian water and industrious people, but despite all this we follow Northland far too closely with far too many poor social wellbeing indicators.
We hear regularly about the primary producers here struggling to find workers, but equally there seems to be a workforce that given the right opportunities could fill these gaps. Council is working hard with our primary producers to support RSE workers who come and fill the seasonal jobs. If Council fills this role, is there not a place for Council to be working with local communities to get their unemployed people working?
Concepts such as better transport to out-of-the-way workplaces and accommodation options could be one area to start. Again, it’s about being more flexible and creative with ideas and concepts around employment in our primary industries to reflect our communities and their ability to be part of this region’s wealth.
Isolation and loneliness within our community are two of the biggest issues facing women today.
This perhaps seems strange with everyone supposedly being so ‘connected’ and always available. You might wonder how we have arrived at a place where people feel they have no one, have become invisible and cut off from the world. Mother Theresa said, “…loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty”.
No one is exempt from loneliness, and I feel there is a place for Council to help address this modern type of ‘poverty’. Building and strengthening communities is a key way that Council can promote greater participation and lessen social isolation. Hastings District Council already supports Community Centres in Flaxmere, Camberley and of course the Women’s Centre.
Going forward how are Council planning on reaching out to other communities in the Hastings District? What work is being done to strengthen communities? What is in place to help build resilience as well as to provide support to those most vulnerable to being isolated – the elderly, women and, significantly, our youth.
NAPIER PILOT CITY TRUST
Open Letter to Napier Candidates
Gender equity is very important. We have known for years that gender inequality damages the physical and mental health of girls and women across the globe. We know women are disadvantaged when they receive less resources, less power, less authority and less control in their lives in comparison to men.
Women and girls need role models and need to see women in roles of power, governance, authority and control. I ask the Council to continue their great work in mirroring these concepts for our Hawke’s Bay women.
Finally, I must add a personal bugbear – volunteers and parking! Parking in the CBD is limited and expensive. Our wonderful and selfless volunteers come every day to the Women’s Centre to share their skills, their knowledge and their time. They serve the women of Hawke’s Bay and keep the centre running with the work they do.
We know you will agree that if someone is coming to volunteer their time and energy at a community organisation, then the Council would want to recognise their incredible contribution to the community and not charge them for parking … let alone give them a $12 ticket!
I accept there are logistical issues around this, but nothing that couldn’t be worked out by the Council sitting down and doing some good old face-to-face talking and coming up with a solution that is both fair and kind. After all our volunteers, like those serving all community groups, are indeed our life blood.
The Napier Pilot City Trust endorses the current mission of Napier City Council:
To provide the facilities and services and the environment, leadership, encouragement and economic opportunity to make Napier the best city in New Zealand in which to live, work, raise a family, and enjoy a safe and satisfying life.
However, we see a massive divide between these fine words and the current delivery. The day-to-day reality for the most vulnerable in our community makes a mockery of the Council’s mission statement.
If Napier is to become the best city in New Zealand it needs a mayor and councillors who are prepared to lead change in our council and in our community.
The Trust has been waiting since the early 1980s for a Council brave enough to accept the challenge to try innovative approaches to reduce crime and improve quality of life in the city.
Our personal experience and published statistics reveal inequality is entrenched and continues without redress. We are dismayed by the social and economic consequences of 40 years’ of inaction.
At this election the Trust will actively support council candidates who are ready to address the destructive issues of inequality and social injustice that stand in stark contrast to the economic and tourism successes of our city.
Our new Council must recognise that lack of opportunity for many people is linked to poor educational attainment, the absence of adequate preparation for work, poor health and the lack of widely available and affordable housing. These persistent inequalities must be addressed in order to deliver broad economic benefits and enhanced wellbeing.
We will be issuing our own challenge to all candidates at pre-election community forums in each ward and will want to see if the vision of prospective candidates aligns to ours, as follows.
1. A kinder and fairer Napier. The time has never been better, nor more urgent, for Napier to be bold and for the Council to be resolute in building a kinder and fairer city. Central government and their agencies are keen and ready, there is a palpable mood for change, all it needs is local government to step up. We expect our local leaders to be actively seeking solutions in housing, education, employment and health services.
The statistics do not read well. Proportionally, Napier tops the housing waiting list nationally with 312 awaiting residents, as well as with crime victimisation rates, with 4,807 victimisations. And 44% of Napier beneficiaries are Māori, nearly double the national level.
2. A focus on social outcomes. Council’s long term and annual plans should complement the Government’s Wellbeing Budget, as well as the powerful Matariki Regional Development Strategy 2018 so that:
Every household and every whānau is actively engaged in, contributing to and benefiting from, a thriving Hawke’s Bay economy.
Hawke’s Bay is a vibrant, cohesive, diverse and safe community, where every child is given the best possible start in life and everyone has opportunities that result in equitable outcomes.
These provide a blueprint for the new Council to put people first. A city where its people are adequately housed, free of crime and employed will benefit everyone and ensure a vibrant and productive economy.
Council routinely publishes its community satisfaction survey. In our future Kind and Fair City the focus should be on tracking and publishing statistics that communicate the wellbeing of our community.
3. Make Napier a Restorative City. Many of the Pilot City Trust’s efforts have been to seek solutions to the debilitating cycle of poverty, crime and punishment. At the Trust’s highly successful 2019 Unity Day in April Prof Chris Marshall presented a compelling argument that Napier, following the lead of Whanganui, should become a Restorative City, where the population:
• Enjoy a safe, calm environment;
• Value relationships based on equal respect, concern, care and dignity;
• Enjoy positive cultural identity;
• Understand both the negative impact and positive impact of our behaviour;
• Take responsibility for our actions and repair harm we may have caused others;
• Have our voices heard and are tolerant of differing views.
4. Adopt UNICEF Child Friendly City Initiative. This initiative supports local governments in realizing the rights of children at the local level, using the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as its foundation.
The healthy development of children is crucial to the future wellbeing of any society. The actions or inactions of government impact children, as totally dependent beings, more strongly than any other group in society. Many changes in society are having a disproportionate and often negative impact on children, and the costs to society of failing its children are huge.
In a child-friendly city, children have a good start in life and grow up healthy and cared for, with a fair chance in life regardless of their ethnic origin, religion, income, gender or ability.
5. Community participation in decision-making. To achieve these radical reforms the whole community must be engaged and actively participating in the democratic process. In particular Council must work with Iwi/Mana Whenua to develop culturally, politically and economically sustainable initiatives.
The new Council has the opportunity to transform Napier’s reputation for social inequality into a reputation for social change and innovation. The new mayor must lead by making the culture change within Council and the community and then resource the Council and community, both funding and people, to implement the change.
Our aspiration is that in time people will come to Napier not only for its art deco wonderland, but also because its innovative and transformative social policies, plans and actions make it a leader in social change. It is an achievable goal that would hugely change Napier for the better. The community needs it, there are plenty who want it and are willing to help achieve it.
Napier Pilot City Trust
Matiu Eru (Kaumatua), Joan Plowman (Chairperson), Trustees Michelle Ratima, Pat Magill, Mark Cleary, Fran Lowe, Alwyn Corban, Ross Duncan.
A Restorative City is measured by:
• Reduced child abuse, domestic violence and other criminal activities;
• Reduced absenteeism / stand downs and increased academic achievement in schools;
• Reduced absenteeism / bullying and sabotage in workplaces and increased productivity;
• Increased satisfaction when interacting with government and non-government agencies;
• Increased feeling of safety in homes and walking the streets;
• Increased sense of community belonging.