‘Our Kerik­eri’ un­der way

The Northland Age - - Opinion -

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

Kerik­eri, based

(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."

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