‘Our Kerikeri’ under way
The organisers of a recent meeting at the Turner Centre set out to discover if there was any interest in establishing a ‘vehicle’ to drive through some positive change and development in
(loosely) on the successful Focus Paihia example. Judging by the turnout — no fewer than 320 people — the answer was a resounding Yes! ‘Our Kerikeri’ is now well under way, establishing leadership and working groups, and getting on with the process of further refining brainstormed ideas and aspirations into tangible goals.
At about the same time the FNDC received some 150 written submissions in response to the publication of a draft reserve management plan for the Kerikeri Domain.
One could be forgiven for believing that democracy and public participation are breaking out all over, and that can only be a good thing. These two examples represent very different forms of engagement, however, and it is useful to think about how the strengths and weaknesses of each can stimulate ongoing involvement in the opportunities and challenges facing our communities.
‘Our Kerikeri’ is an entirely community-driven initiative, with no formal involvement from council or any other regulatory body. As such, the participants are free to come up with whatever schemes or actions take their fancy (constrained only of course by the law and common decency). There is a freedom and a sense of opportunity in that, which could explain the attraction of such initiatives.
The Domain consultation, by contrast, is in part a statutory process, and as such is bound by rules and regulations, which along with prevailing perceptions of the usefulness of engagement may discourage some people from offering ideas or comments. If people think that only ‘experts,’ or some inner circle possessed of particular information or knowledge will make (or have already made) the key decisions, then what incentive is there to engage?
In our Vision Kerikeri submission to the Domain plan, we advocate for ‘citizen experts’ from within our communities working alongside council, rather than having all functions contracted out to external agencies. This approach enables planning that is more relevant, innovative and sensitive to local needs and desires.
The term ‘citizen expert’ does not only mean those with degrees or specific qualifications. A citizen expert is someone who lives locally, represents a local demographic, has an essential knowledge or skill base, and desires to collaborate with others to create local solutions for local problems.
There is a wealth of human and material resources within our community that can be drawn on to support the implementation of bold, transformative plans. A number of community members are already volunteering time, specialist skills and expertise to enable a communitydriven vision. Who knows this place better, or are more likely to commit to its development, than those who live and work here?
"One could be forgiven for believing that democracy and public participation are breaking out all over, and that can only be a good thing."