One issue constantly raised during the election campaign was CCC’s inability to respond to local feedback. Time and time again people reported especially about traffic engineers producing plans for roading, or cycleways, and ignoring the feedback. Max Rashbrooke wrote in The Press this week – Democracy is failing we need more of it.
My criticism of the NZ government promoting policies from the centre, also applies to CCC centralising decisions in Hereford Street. If we are to achieve subsidiarity (decisions made as close to those impacted by them) funding decisions need to be made at community board level whenever possible.
It disturbed me to hear that there had been directions at CCC, from Hereford Street, that community boards were to be limited to one meeting a month.
That reeked of central planning. The centre knows best. What is happening at Twitter demonstrates that this dismissal of alternative views isn’t just limited to public servants…
Over the next period, we will contemplate what we as a city should be expecting of our community boards. What they could, and should, become. Some embrace new ideas with enthusiasm. Others, dominated by either dogma, or elected reps who are into power remaining in the centre, will be slow to accept where society wants things to change. Hopefully we will be able to encourage greater participation throughout the city.
In an excellent opinion piece in Stuff yesterday https://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/opinion/130379497/democracy-may-be-in-trouble-but-the-answer-is-more-of-it-not-less. Max Rashbrooke wrote:
We can surely find ways to engage the public early and well, so that infrastructure is built quickly but also democratically. We can prevent elite capture, too. For all around us are the green shoots of a new, bottom-up democracy.
In Auckland, Watercare and the Koi Tū Centre have just run a citizens’ assembly in which 37 residents, picked to be demographically representative of the city, spent time deeply discussing future water source options, landing eventually on recycling wastewater for drinking. This process used experts the right way: as guides for the residents, not as their masters.
In Porirua, Ngāti Toa is working with others on a talanoa and wānanga-based system that would likewise empower residents to lead local decision-making. And the Future of Local Government Review, which reported last week, contained countless ideas for reinvigorating democracy and ending the participation imbalance.
We need greater community participation in public life. As an institution CCC must change. Instead of autocratic decision making by both the executive and elected members how refreshing it would be to engage communities in a deeply trusting manner.
One of the early topics for discussion by community board members will be cycleways. Let us make this a healthy debate, instead of the shallow debate it so often has been. Here’s a photo of cycleways which have been installed in the centre of Paris.
This week we will consider how community boards could perform given the chance. Rosemary and I will have a discussion with Callum Ward who chairs the Waihoro Spreydon-Cashmere-Heathcote Community board, and Bebe Frayer who finished as a board member of Coastal, Burwood, Linwood community board at the last election. We will consider topics like participatory budgeting and other steps raised at the meeting which could be experimented with in the future.
John Walsh says
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democracy_Index lists 23 ‘full democracies’ among the 167 nations it studied in 2021. Of these 23 ‘full democracies’, New Zealand ranks 2nd to Norway. Accordingly, describing “more democracy” as a major issue for New Zealand risks letting ‘the perfect be the enemy of the good’.
Max Rashbrooke’s article led me to https://www.worldvaluessurvey.org/WVSContents.jsp and a good read of this webpage is well worth the time it takes.
Rosemary replies – Having just finished the latest round of local government elections and a further serious decline in voter participation, I think we do need to pay attention to what democracy means. We may be better than some, but that does not mean there is no room for improvement. At present I think we are in danger of democracy being a box to be ticked rather than real engagement and collaboration in decision making.