Since I last wrote in this column I have observed the huge influence that “ordinary” members of the community have on council decision-making when they engage, either formally or informally, with council in a positive and respectful manner and with a well-reasoned argument. An individual or group can create change at least as great as can any individual councillor, provided they demonstrate community support and reasoned argument.
Over the last few months I have had the privilege of hearing from community organisations from all over our district through our LTP process. I have had the opportunity of talking to individuals at the Levin Town Centre consultation days. I have had the thrill of seeing a Progressive Association set up in Foxton Beach. And I have shared the responsibility of deciding on council’s response to Priority Buildings under the earthquakeprone buildings legislation.
All of these resulted in the “ordinary” person influencing council decision-making, frequently creating significant changes to council’s draft decisions. In some cases council has been able to make a clear-cut decision approving what was asked for. In others the decision was deferred pending further information. And a third option involves working towards decisions jointly with the community involved. Unfortunately the over-riding media message about our council for the last two years has been one of division. It would seem the “ordinary” person does not count. But despite this, the community has stood up and spoken out, engaging positively with council, often unreported, for what they believe in. They are being listened to and their requests are being acted on to create the community people are asking for.
Recently Horowhenua hosted Jim Diers, an internationally recognised authority on community-led development, to hear his story about empowering the community to identify problems and create solutions. His message is the community has the wisdom to decide what the community should look like.
Over the last two years I have seen this demonstrated with the transformation of Foxton and Foxton Beach as a result of community input through earlier years. Projects completed are too numerous to list here and there is a renewed interest in the community as a partner in future developments.
I am confident that the residents of Horowhenua will continue to lead development of the community they wish to live in.