Friday, December 3, 2010

MMP - makes your vote count

The campaign to keep MMP (mixed Member Proportional) electoral system got underway in Hamilton on 1 December when members of the national campaign for MMP came to town.
For political scientists Ana Gilling and Sandra Grey, MMP is the fairest and most representative electoral system. Other speakers, Jeanette Fitzsimmons, Sue Moroney and Hineraumoa Te Apatu, reminded us that MMP is good for women and good for diversity.
Since changing to MMP the New Zealand parliament is much more representative of our diverse community than it was previously. In 1993, women were only 21% of New Zealand's parliament. In 2010, women are 33.6% of the MPs and there are six women cabinet ministers. Thanks largely to MMP, women have a greater opportunity to frame the issues and shape the agenda of parliament. And our parliaments are now much more representative of our ethnically diverse nation.
Under FPP (First Past the Post) New Zealand saw governments elected with only minority support who governed with "unbridled power" unrestrained by other views. Those in safe seats were disenfranchised while those in marginal seats wielded undue influence in elections.
MMP makes your vote count. It tempers the extremes of a two party system and requires governments to negotiate with a range of perspectives. It is not always a tidy process but it more fairly reflects the community's diverse views.
Next year's referendum will decide whether to keep MMP or not. A vote to keep MMP will trigger a review which will give the opportunity for improvements to be debated.
If you would like to help with the Campaign for MMP contact or email me on - your help will make a difference.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Waikato welcome

This week the question of who is a New Zealander has been hotly debated.

On Friday the powhiri to welcome the latest refugee group to settle in Hamilton showed that in this city we are embracing a multicultural society well. The powhiri is now a well-established tradition supported by Te Runanga o Kirikiriroa, people from ethnic groups, settlement support agencies and the volunteers who support their work. Hamilton is the only centre in New Zealand - thus far - to do so.

Our newest refugee group are Burmese who spent their first six weeks in their new country at the Mangere Centre.

Refugee Services manager, Rachel O'Connor's confident karanga of welcome rang out clear and strong. Ismail Gamadid from the Somali community and Refugee Forum began his welcome in fluent Maori and continued in expressive English. Kaumatua were supported by waiata which included a Burmese song. When the Burmese speaker told of the long and difficult journey from Burma to New Zealand and their hope for a better future he did so in quiet, eloquent English. I was not the only one moved to tears.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Birth pangs

At this stage of an election campaign we may forget that for many people local body politics are peripheral at best.

As candidates we are understandably focussed on the campaign whereas the critical period is the three years after 9 October.

This is somewhat like a pregnant mum's focus on her pregnant state whereas, post partum, the important work of parenting begins.

In the brief lull between the end of campaign meetings and knowing the election result, we could do well to reflect on what we have heard on the hustings and where we might look to make changes.

I have been encouraged, for instance, by the broad consensus around sustainability issues and the questions about better bus shelters and natural burial show that we live in changing times.

In the next three years, on Council or not, I will work for STV - Single Transferable Vote as a fairer system for council elections and will campaign to retain MMP. I am ready to look at open workshops and rating review.

I look forward to participating in the October/November forums at the museum: The Tron: conversations on placemaking. These ongoing conversations are what shaping our city is all about.

Page thirteen of tonight's Waikato Times lists the candidates that Sustainable Waikato has endorsed - you may wish to check it out - or their website

Sunday, September 19, 2010

greening our gullies

What would attract about thirty people to Hamilton's Mangaiti gully on a very blustery Saturday afternoon?
They came to learn about restoring this extensive gully system from gorse and willow to native plants. Wayne Bennett, Robin Holdsworth and Council staff shared their knowledge with locals keen to get to work and make a difference.
Hamilton's gullies are the city's hidden treasures and provide welcome open space in a growing city. Mangaiti is one of a number of gully restoration projects where Council works in partnership with a community group.
Thanks to Rex Bushell for his leadership of this project. You can keep track of what is happening on

greening the gullies

Friday, September 17, 2010

Speed dating for the arts

The traditional election meeting allows candidates three minutes each to introduce themselves and state their positions on issues, followed by questions from the floor. With a long list of candidates this format can tax the stamina of the audience – and the candidates - and doesn’t usually allow for follow up questions or discussion.

Last night, the arts sector meeting for candidates took the speed- dating approach. Candidates sat at a table where those attending could spend three minutes with them before moving on. At the end of the evening, candidates were each given 30 seconds to respond as they wished.

This format proved a useful advocacy tool for arts groups. A succession of people raising the same issue has more impact than one question from the floor on a topic.

In addition, a booklet with candidates responses to a questionnaire on arts issues, provided further information on which to make a considered choice.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

taking the long view

Two groups are canvassing candidates in the local elections.
The Campaign for Better Transport, based in Auckland is campaigning vigorously for a passenger rail service from Hamilton to Auckland. With good media skills, CBT has run several well-attended meetings and marshalled a large group of local supporters who collected 11,500 signatures on a petition to government. They are pressing candidates to Vote Trains and have endorsed candidates who have signed their manifesto to support the cause if elected, as I do.
Sustainable Waikato is a locally based and recently formed group. Leaders include some of our most respected scientists and supporters include a solid academic base. Sustainable Waikato has questioned candidates on their views on a range of topics relevant to long term needs of the city and region and good governance. Their answers have been carefully assessed and based on this assessment, some have been endorsed. The Sustainable Waikato website lists those who have been endorsed and also provides the full text of their answers and the assessment criteria. This gives voters comprehensive information about candidate's views and an assurance as to the integrity of the process. I welcome their endorsement.
After the election, the assessment criteria could be provided to councillors as a checklist for responsible governance. I trust that Sustainable Waikato will continue.

is it junk mail?

We have taken off our no junk mail sign from our letterbox because during the election campaign we are understandably keen to receive other candidate's flyers.

There is some debate about whether election flyers are junk mail. Are they any different from the supermarket ads advertising this week's specials? Some would argue that while election flyers are also advertising they provide a useful purpose in a democratic society, providing information for voters which helps them to make an informed choice.

Given the range of views on this issue, my letterboxers use their discretion and do what they are comfortable with. Personally, I would steer clear of letterboxers with no unaddressed mail stickers.

I appreciate that this approach may leave some householders unhappy. However, the good news is that the end is in sight. There are unlikely to be any flyers in a letter box near you after this week.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

build it and they will come!

A friend visited New Plymouth recently and was told that before leaving town she must see the striking new Te Rewa Rewa bridge which crosses the Waiwhakaiho River on the waterfront walkway.

The pedestrian/cycling bridge is the jewel in the crown of the walkway extension. The striking single arch is evocative of breaking waves or whalebone. On a good day, the upright structure of the bridge frames a stunning view of Mt Taranaki.
Opened in June 2010, the bridge attracted 55,000 in the month of July. And this in a city of just 67,000 people.

Mark Servian suggests a new low level bridge for Hamilton, designed by Weta workshop, that could become a must see attraction for Hamilton. Cities across the world are identified by their iconic structures. Maybe it is time to start thinking about an imaginative and innovative structure for Hamilton.

Elections can help to find allies

Good ideas can find support as part of an election campaign. I am encouraged by the interest from other candidates, and supporters, for natural burial. This option for Newstead has received little support on Council thus far but remains on the agenda. It makes sense for those with an environmental focus and for those who think that providing choices for people is part of being a responsive Council. We are looking forward to the visit later in the year of an English man, Ken West who is well-versed in natural burial. Lynda Hannah from Motueka, who wrote Living Legacies and studied natural burial on a Churchill Fellowship will be visiting Hamilton next month. So, sometimes, the planets align!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Yes, we can!

When Horsham Downs residents asked Waikato District Council for a footpath along Osborne Road so that their children could walk to school they were told that this stretch of busy rural road did not qualify for a footpath.

So they did it anyway.

Local mum, Julie Roe rallied the community to support the project. Surveying, tree removal, metal and cartage worth around $20,000 were all donated to make the 1.5km footpath a reality. Having achieved a safe route to Horsham Downs School they realised that an extension south to the outskirts of Hamilton was possible. Hamilton City Council came to the party by allowing access to a 3km stretch of future road reserve. This now provides a safe off road walking and cycling route linking Horsham Downs to the city.

In Wellington last weekend at the Living Streets conference the Horsham Downs link won a special Golden Foot award for a community 'can do' project. Judges said that this project shows what can be achieved by a determined and passionate community working alongside their local councils. I would add that having a Julie Roe in the community makes all the difference.

Friday, July 16, 2010

A more famous brother

Maya Dunham Soetoro Ng is a woman of presence. She is strikingly beautiful with a warm sonorous voice and a marked gift for words.
She is also bright. She received a PhD in education from the University of Hawaii and is currently on the staff of the East West Center there.
I heard her speak at a recent conference at the East West Center where she spoke warmly of her mother, Ann Dunham. A cultural anthropologist, Ann worked in Indonesia where she studied cottage industries. She introduced microcredit programmes to enable small scale, local development. These were of special benefit to the women of remote villages. She was honoured posthumously at the conference.
Ann Dunham was an impressive woman in her own right. She also produced two outstanding children, Maya Soetoro and her half brother, President Barack Obama.

Why blog?

I began my blog about a year ago just to try out this form of online diary. I have posted to the blog when something delighted or dismayed me.

It occurs to me, though, that a couple of dozen short posts over a year should give a fair indication of my values and interest so it may be of some use in knowing a candidate.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Bringing back the bellbirds

More than 200 people found it no problem to turn up at 8 am on a recent Sunday morning at the Hamilton Gardens. They poured into Te Parapara Garden to see the release of bellbirds into the Gardens. When the containers were opened, it was just a moment and a flash of olive and gold before they were out of sight.

We hope that they will stay at the Gardens - and more importantly - nest here so that when we visit they will delight us with their song.

It is some years ago that I visited Little Barrier Island in the Hauraki Gulf. This sanctuary could well be described as party central for bellbirds. There for the first time, listening to the dawn chorus, I realised how New Zealand used to be and what we have lost.

In the Waikato, we have very little of the indigenous cover remaining. We now treasure the meagre fragment of kahikatea at Jubilee Bush and marvel at the striking stand of kahikatea forest at Yarndley's Bush near Te Awamutu.

The bellbird release is possibly optimistic but also symbolic as a tangible reminder of all that we still need to do.

Stirring song and dance

Maori graduates of the university and Wintec may choose whether to receive their degrees at the Founders theatre or at a marae ceremony.

At the Founders, most graduates walk across the stage accompanied by polite clapping. In contrast, at a recent Wintec graduation ceremony at the Kirikiriroa Marae, graduates received heartwarming vocal support from the large gathering of friends and family taking obvious pride in their accomplishments.

At this moving - and leisurely - ceremony most graduates were acknowledged individually by stirring waiata or haka from friends and whanau. Younger members of their families at this event could well be inspired to consider tertiary study for themselves.

A Scottish woman who chose the marae graduation was warmly applauded as we listened to the plaintive notes of her supporting lone piper. Song and dance, as part of the rich fabric of the occasion, move us perhaps more than words may do.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Not on yer Yike!

When I had enthusiastic emails from friends in Italy and the US recently about the New Zealand -designed Yike bike, I needed to check it out. The Yike bike has been heralded as the answer to urban commuter travel. It is a lightweight electric bike which can fold up to go on a bus or train and be stowed under a desk at work. But it is limited to a range of only 10-12 kms. And with an eye-watering price tag of three thousand English pounds it is only for the seriously wealthy.

A standard electric bike, though, is a great way to get around as it flattens the hills and deals to headwinds. So I will happily continue to commute on my trusty electric bike and especially enjoy sailing past queued cars at peak times.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hooked on hockey!

As someone who usually skips over the sports section of the paper, last week's international women's hockey test in Hamilton was a revelation for me.
Our Blacksticks and Argentina's Las Leonas ran like gazelles for the whole 70 minutes of the game. Both teams were remarkably fit, agile and deft and their dazzling display had me rapt. I had not appreciated how demanding and skilled hockey at this level is and what a great, fast-moving game it is to watch.

At the final whistle I was dancing with delight. We had won 3-1!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Saving Radio New Zealand

Why did more than sixty people brave the rain to gather in Garden Place at lunchtime last Thursday?

They came to oppose the funding cuts to Radio New Zealand, our public service broadcaster.

They poke eloquently and with passion about why they value the national and concert programmes as part of their lives, every day. They reminded us of the importance of informed debate and a trusted news source in a democracy.

As one young woman said, "I want decent radio - it's my lifeline to the world."

The Minister of Broadcasting has told the RNZ Board that there will be no increase in funding in the foreseeable future. He has advised them to cut staff, look at sponsorship of programmes and consider shutting down from midnight to 6am.

This "death by inches" approach will erode the quality of the service, especially newsgathering.

The Hamilton protest, the latest in a series nation-wide, along with the 19,000 people joined to the Save Radio New Zealand Facebook page, indicates substantial oopposition to the cuts right across the political spectrum.

The government may not appreciate Radio New Zealand. I do.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Natural Burial

If your choice of cremation or traditional burial is because of religous or cultural considerations, read no further.

However, if you could choose either option you may be interested in a further possibility, that of natural burial.

What is the difference? With traditional burial as at Newstead, graves are set in expansive lawns which are mowed and maintained. Monuments and plaques mark individual graves. In contrast, the area for natural burials will become over time an area of re-generating native bush where the individual graves will be indistinguishable and unmarked.

Those would would prefer natural burial consider it to be more environmentally friendly than either traditional burial or cremation. They consider it sufficient memorial to have contributed to a pleasant area of restored bush.


Fractur is not for the faint-hearted. You might not want to take your granny to this play (nudity and language may offend) but you will keep thinking about its message long after you have left the theatre.

At one point in the play, we were asked to intervene to stop the violence on stage but we did not do so. I am still wrestling with my conscience over that.

Fractur is about guards and prisoners and the way they treat each other but with some uncertainties as to whether it is meant to be "real"or not. David Foote's take on man's inhumanity to man is chilling, troubling and intensely involving. He is well-served by his cast who will take his creation to a season in Wellington.