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!