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Time to Huddle

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Kirsten Wise16 July 2020

One of the challenges for a Mayor and Council is finding ways to stay connected to our community — and not just to those who have the confidence and understand the ways they can interact with us, but everyone.

As a Mayor and a Council it is our responsibility to ensure we are connecting with and listening to the many diverse members of our community, balancing their needs, and keeping our community at the core of our decision-making.

Tackling this challenge head-on is an absolute priority for me. The commitment I made when elected last year was to lead a Council that will actively listen and truly engage with our community in an open, transparent way including sharing all the information … the good, the bad and the ugly.

So what have I done so far?

The first cab off the rank was the livestreaming of our standing committee and Council meetings, making it easier for people to ‘attend’ these meetings and witness the debate and discussion that goes on around the Council table.  This has been very well received with between 2,000 – 6,000 views per meeting via Facebook since commencement. You can watch the meetings live or head to either the Council or my Facebook page where the livestream is stored for you to watch at your convenience.

Alongside this I wanted to be personally accessible to our community, and thus the Town Huddle was born — an informal weekly community meeting around the four wards in the city. These meetings are an opportunity for community members to come and ask any questions, voice any concerns or raise any issues which may be on their mind, or in fact just sit and listen.

Running for 1.5 hours, people are welcome to attend for as long as they wish … the whole time, half an hour, or simply the time it takes to have their own question answered. Councillors also attend the Huddle so it is an opportunity for the community to connect with their Ward Councillors and ask them questions too.

And then COVID-19 arrived on our shores!

The new challenge for myself and Council was how do we remain accessible and connected with the community when we are in lockdown. The day we went into lockdown I made the commitment to prepare a daily information sharing post on Facebook for the duration of Level 4. I extended this through into Level 3 with a total of 51 consecutive posts made over this period.

It was my responsibility to keep our community informed, particularly on Council matters, but not limited to this, over this difficult time and Facebook was a great mechanism to do this. I would like here to acknowledge the tremendous support I received from the community over this period and everyone who thanked me for these daily posts.

Post COVID lockdown I have recently restarted my weekly Town Huddles … with a twist. For the next few months I am trialling holding a face-to-face Huddle on the first Monday evening of the month and then a Facebook Live Q&A Huddle on the other three Mondays of the month. This means people can join me and ask their questions via this online platform from the comfort of their homes during these cooler winter months.

To me this column is another opportunity to engage with our community and share information on what is happening at Council. So I look forward to checking in with you all over the coming weeks with news from the Council table, but also sharing the common themes, questions and issues raised during my weekly Town Huddles.

If you would like to contact me directly you are welcome to do so any time on mayor@napier.govt.nz.

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Kirsten Wise16 July 2020

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