Get­ting it right

The Northland Age - - Local Life / Opinion - Cr John Vu­j­cich

Our cen­sus form fi­nally ar­rived on Mon­day, with our on­line ac­cess in­struc­tions. We, like many oth­ers, were con­cerned it would ar­rive on time. It’s im­por­tant to par­tic­i­pate, and es­pe­cially im­por­tant to ru­ral North­land for right de­ci­sion-mak­ing.

The method of col­lect­ing cen­sus in­for­ma­tion this year has changed sig­nif­i­cantly. It is now, by de­fault, ex­pected to be com­pleted on­line. While I can see the ad­van­tages and agree with the ap­proach, I am con­cerned about how many in ru­ral North­land are cop­ing with this new method. I know of many places in North­land that don’t have cell phone ac­cess, and a sig­nif­i­cant number have no in­ter­net ac­cess at home. It con­cerns me that many peo­ple in our re­mote ar­eas, es­pe­cially those with­out a com­puter or the el­derly, may have strug­gled to com­plete the form on­line. Cen­tral gov­ern­ment has con­sid­ered these “rare” cir­cum­stances, and of­fers, on re­quest, the op­tion of re­ceiv­ing pa­per forms, but this takes more time and hassle.

The cen­sus data are par­tic­u­larly im­por­tant to us in the North. The in­for­ma­tion is used by cen­tral gov­ern­ment, coun­cils and gov­ern­ment de­part­ments when mak­ing de­ci­sions that af­fect us. For ex­am­ple, cen­sus data were used to es­ti­mate the growth in Kerik­eri when siz­ing the sew­er­age scheme. They are used by the Min­istry of Health when look­ing at the al­lo­ca­tion of fund­ing for each area. I have heard of some es­ti­mates say­ing North­land is miss­ing out on mil­lions of dol­lars in gov­ern­ment al­lo­ca­tions be­cause the cen­sus in­for­ma­tion un­der-re­ports the ru­ral North­land pop­u­la­tion.

It is not too late. You can still com­plete the cen­sus on­line, or re­quest pa­per forms, fill them in and send them back. If you haven’t done so, please do; you will be help­ing your com­mu­nity.

That brings me to the coun­cil’s longterm plan. Ev­ery three years the coun­cil re­views its longterm plan, which then goes out to the pub­lic for con­sul­ta­tion. The LTP sets out what the coun­cil pro­poses to do in the next 10 years. You will see key is­sues out­lined and what are con­sid­ered to be the im­por­tant pri­or­i­ties.

Have we got this right? Al­ready I have heard some say­ing we have, and oth­ers say­ing we have not. I per­son­ally have dif­fi­culty with the ef­fec­tive­ness of how we con­sult and set pri­or­i­ties, and won­der why we can’t look at cap­tur­ing com­mu­nity as­pi­ra­tions in more in­no­va­tive ways.

Once the LTP is fi­nalised it be­comes very dif­fi­cult to make any sig­nif­i­cant changes, so it is crit­i­cal that ev­ery­one has their say, es­pe­cially in smaller ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, which are of­ten over­looked in favour of the larger cen­tres.

Right on the front page of the LTP no­tice is ‘He Ara Ta­mata, Cre­at­ing Great Places.’ If we haven’t cre­ated the right mix for your com­mu­nity to be­come a great place, then have your say.

"It con­cerns me that many peo­ple in our re­mote ar­eas, es­pe­cially those with­out a com­puter or the el­derly, may have strug­gled to com­plete the cen­sus form on­line. "

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