Will they listen? How much weight do public submissions have?

You’d be forgiven for missing it, hidden amongst talk of Destination playgrounds, Hamilton Gardens, Garden Place and a proposed rates rise; but one of the more important long term decisions our city could make has been glossed over.

Earlier this year the Hamilton City Council and Waipa district Council’s expressed preference to form a shared service to improve efficiencies in water management.  However “ … no final decision can be made until public consultation has been completed and submissions considered,” Mr Bowcott says.   <<Insert token democratic participation>>


Public consultation about creating a shared water management company with neighbouring councils has now ended.  A grand total of 75 people made submissions.  Surprising? given the state of our freshwater ways, and news of water contamination or drought in other districts.  We’ve been assured our water services are A1, but does that mean we should remain complacent or is it because we don’t feel we’ll be listened to anyway?

Hamilton City Council will make a final decision on whether or not to form a Shared Waters Management Company at its Council meeting on December 12.  Do you think public submissions will hold much weight?



Hamilton’s crap political leadership

I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed it this week.  Hamilton’s political leadership has been under the spotlight for all the wrong reasons, and I spy an over-riding theme that needs to be highlighted.  Where are all the females?  We are desperately in need of more diversity in our local Councils and Boards.  Our political leadership is left wanting, because our current representation is pale, male and stale – an “old boys club”.  

Let me share a few examples of why we need better leadership.  Every news outlet in New Zealand picked up the story this week about Hamilton City Councillor, Mark Bunting sharing an offensive social media post with writer and destination playground advocate Angela Cuming.  I’m sure you’ve seen enough of the details to not need a link, but just in case you missed it…  Specifics of that issue aside, (other) women are feeling as if they are unable to call out elected Councillors for lacking professionalism and respect and again women don’t feel comfortable advocating for their city in public forums in front of Council. This is so wrong.  It’s not a one off issue, it’s ongoing.

Say what you want at home and within your personal relationships – but uphold basic conduct in that Council chamber.  Current Hamilton City Councillor Angela O’Leary has publically condemned, what she describes as inappropriate banter and conduct in our council chamber but it hasn’t stopped it from happening!  We only have to look back at Gary Mallet’s slurs and documented jests at speakers in the public forum and to staff to know offensive, inappropriate and disrespectful commentary is an ongoing issue.

I wonder if this behaviour is further tolerated because we have no females in the Hamilton City Council’s executive management structure either.  Between the eight of them and just 3 elected Councillors being female (out of 13) you can see the lack of balance and diversity in Council processes and decision making. 

Another example of the “old boys club” at play is coming out of the Waikato District Health Board.  How the heck can Bob Simcock still be knocking around?  He has no integrity whatsoever – it’s all too matesy, “I got your back” for my liking…  He was the Mayor of Hamilton at the time of one of the biggest Council stuff-ups in recent times.  He basically “let slide” how badly staff decisions were being made regarding the V8’s and kept Councillors in the dark.  And not alot has changed – still no accountability for his failures with the Nigel Murray case (he allowed the CEO to resign rather than charge him with fraud wtf?).  Is this necessarily a male thing?  No of course not; but we’re seeing a pretty bleak view of local political leadership at the moment.

Read an earlier post:  Help get rid of Bob Simcock

This brings us to Hamilton East MP David Bennett.  When he went on a tirade about “socialists”  he showed a side of himself which isn’t at all respectful and inclusive to his constituents.  We should be embracing diversity in ideologies, values and priorities, it can lead to better outcomes.  Why is he unable to stick to constituency issues?  If this is setting the tone for his time in opposition, I hope he gets another job really soon.  I also noticed his treatment towards other females standing in the recent general election was patronising and lacked even basic professionalism.  And that was just observation from being in the audience, I shudder to think how they felt.

It comes down to respect, pure and simple.  We teach our kids this, so it’s time to set the example.

A letter to the editor about David Bennett’s embarrassing speech.

So why are we voting in more of the same?  Because women just aren’t putting their hands up for roles like males do.  There are a myriad of reasons why someone would choose not to run, but I hope this “old boys club” isn’t one of them.  It would be a huge shame, because with more of the same – how can it be different? better?  It’s time to stand up – call our current political leaders out on their B.S and get the job  done.

Nominations just opened for the Hamilton City Council by-election, and will remain open until December 22nd.  If you’re a female considering putting your hand up for the by-election please do!  We need better representation and an end to this crap.


How to help your community eat.

Kelli from the Tron shares Hamilton news, views, events and music on a weekly FreeFm89.0 show and podcast. 

While some of us struggle with over-indulgence and send a third of a rubbish bag of wasted food to landfill each week; other Hamiltonians don’t know where their next meal is coming from; go without, and can keep kids at home due to the shame of not being able to send them to school with lunch.

Robert Moore from Anglican Action and Poverty Action Waikato and Alex Bailey from the Catholic diocese of Hamilton interviewed for and wrote a report called “Breaking Leftover Bread: Kaivolution and food insecurity in Kirikiriroa Hamilton”.  Rob joined me in the studio to share that report with us.

Kaivolution recently reached the milestone of rescuing 350 tonnes of edible food for redistribution –  reducing landfills and greenhouse gas emissions.  While environmental outcomes of food rescue have been recorded; this report was instigated due to the need to record anecdotal evidence of the social value of the role Kaivolution has.

Access to consistent nourishing food is a significant issue for many families who are recipients of Kaivolution food.  The most serious physical consequence of this shortfall is seen with child hospitalisation for malnourishment doubling in the last decade.

The reasons for deficiencies vary – quality of the food we are eating is decreasing, with more processed, convenience and take-away foods being consumed.  The cost of living has increased faster than incomes with food being the safest budget to drop, without fear of persecution from a landlord, the power being disconnected or lacking the ability to get to work.  Pride is considered a barrier to accessing food, with recipients recounting the shame and stigma attached to seeking help through WINZ, who have decreased accessibility to hardship assistance.  Many also found the governmental organisation difficult to navigate.  The food assistance provided by Kavolution and it’s recipients allows a more empowering way to support ones family – and also builds communities around the 75 charities Kaivolution support.

So, what can we do?

Support local groups like Poverty Action Waikato, Living Wage Aotearoa and Reality Check Aotearoa. Among other campaigns, they advocate to lift benefit levels and introduce a living wage.  You can help by being aware of their work; liking and sharing what they do with your friends and whanau and attending events/rallies or donating where possible.

Donate food.  If you want to collect non-perishable food at work, or from home you can donate at a local food bank.  Their shelves empty out around Christmas so now is the time to start thinking about this.  If you have food that is edible but about to go to waste please contact Kaivolution.  This includes donating produce from your garden or trees.

Support local groups – or the Council to enable groups to plant fruit trees in public places and build community gardens to improve food sovereignty.  The added benefit of giving access to food is the community it builds around the group or garden.

At a political level, we are seeing calls for GST to be removed from fruit and veges and for subsidies to be put on nourishing food.  Food prices in the land of milk and honey have increased due to the demand from overseas for our exports – addressing the free market conditions could help reduce prices.

Consider using initiatives like Eat My Lunch, who match a meal you buy for yourself with one for a child who would otherwise go without.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but hopes to give ideas on how you can help your community eat.

Listen to my latest podcast, which includes the interview with Rob about “Breaking leftover bread: Kaivolution and food insecurity in Hamilton”.  (About 8 minutes into the show)



Zero-wasting is hard – but let’s do this!

I don’t always overthink every decision in a supermarket, but when I do….

Let me share a recent “quick stop” at the supermarket with you.

Unassuming bag of dilemmas

Butter.  I’ve been procrastinating buying butter because a) it’s expensive (due to overseas demand) and b) I was doing a mini-protest at New Zealand’s unsustainable farming industry (carbon emissions, water quality etc); but since I haven’t looked into vegan baking yet, I felt resigned to make the purchase this time.

Produce.  The most ethical way to shop for fruit and veges is from a market in terms of less food miles (carbon emissions), supporting your community and less packaging.  However, the best choices today were NZ apples and Fair trade bananas.  I had to reach over the heavily packaged apples and wrapped bananas to get to the “better choices” and even then they’re not perfect… fruit has sticker labels which is annoying (not recyclable) but laser tagging is on it’s way so it won’t be an issue forever.  I’m just going to put this out here – if produce is wrapped in plastic please leave it on the shelf to send Countdown a message that we think it’s stupid and wasteful.

Actually we have a selection of produce bags in our shop to choose from, which means you’ll never need plastic again mwah ha ha haaa


Deli meat.  We stopped cooking meat at home over a year ago, to protest animal cruelty and the impact of farming on our environment (which makes us ‘Reduceatarians’ lol) but I was hankering for a ham toastie…  The options were (since I didn’t take my own container); in one of their plastic bags, their container or as I found out in brown paper.  If you ask them to wrap it in brown paper – make sure they don’t weigh the item in a plastic bag and then tip that onto the brown paper – defeats the purpose, which I politely pointed out.  It does mean you’ll spend an extra cent or two on paper which is heavier but small price to pay.  I can chuck the paper in our compost but those flimsy plastic bags will last hundreds of years which is ridiculous for the 10 minutes use it will have.  The next best option would be one of their containers if you can commit to reusing it – at the moment I use ours to raise seeds 🙂

So a consumer dilemma with every purchase…. the silver lining is how much power we have with those decisions. We can’t be perfect all the time and every little change or thoughtful purchase helps.

But shopping can be a nightmare when you overthink things so to help us along on the zero-waste journey are Hannah and Liam “No waste Nomads” who are travelling around New Zealand running free workshops to show you how easy it can be. We’re hosting them at Go Eco on November 2nd.  Join me to get tips, so your head doesn’t implode every time you go shopping.



Rating the Mayor – one year in…

It’s been a year since we were shocked at the news that Andrew King – used car salesman and ‘second chance finance peddler’ had taken the helm of the Hamilton city council as Mayor.  We were shocked because it had looked like a two horse race between Paula Southgate and Chris Simpson and shocked again because he was one of the most uncharismatic and uninspiring characters to hear speak.  But, after a recount with just a handful of votes between him and Paula it was confirmed and so the King of Hamilton was born.

I’m not going to lie – I was sure that he’d ruin everything – all the progress made to make Hamilton a vibrant and happening city to live.  Upon reflection I may have been slightly dramatic about it – because no one person can have that sort of impact.  But, fast forward to today – how has he done in his first year?


I’ve been fortunate enough to speak with the Mayor on a monthly basis for FreeFM to ask whatever I feel you want asked.  I feel he has been extremely generous with his time and a ‘good sport’ when I’ve asked curly questions; even if he doesn’t give me the answer I was hoping for.

Availability – TICK

It’s been a big ‘tick’ that he has made himself available for the public.  He has set aside regular weekly spots that you can book, to have a word with him in his office.  An open-door as such.  It’s been often noted that he makes a point of greeting everyone at events he attends (which are many…).   This is really good, I don’t think we see enough of our elected Councillors out and about so he sets a good example.

Inclusiveness – TICK

Inclusiveness is important in leadership, and one of the first things he did was change the Council’s committee structure so that all Councillors were in all committees so there were no surprises and everyone is involved in decisions (this helps accountability too).  As a West ward Councillor he had alluded to their being factions within the Council under the last Mayor so it’s good to see that he dealt to this quickly.

Openness – TICK

Being Mr Popularity isn’t his thing – “doing the right thing by Hamiltonian’s is” (his words) and he hasn’t been shy of telling it like it is.  Which is something I appreciate even if I don’t want to swallow it.  For example, rates hikes next year seem inevitable, possibly to the tune of $500 per household.  I’m not happy about that – but I can understand where he is coming from and appreciate him giving warning as early as possible – which was back in March.  There seems no way to avoid it for next year … unless we want service cuts or are willing to forego some of the things we love about Hamilton… like playgrounds, libraries and pools.  It would be an easier call to make to bow to public pressure and keep rates down – even if it is to the detriment of the bank balance.  I’ll be interested in how the Councillors vote on that in the 10 year plan next year.

Despite this, there are a few things I haven’t liked about his work so far if I had to be picky.

No advisory committees – UMMMM?

I’m not sure he should have disbanded the advisory committees (heritage, youth, older persons).  He said they weren’t necessary but I believe the community needs as many points of influence in plans and policies as possible.  Councillors often spend so much time in the administrative side of the job (or just plain don’t do enough) that they don’t get out and about into the community as much as they should.  However – it would really be the call of people on those committees to say whether being abandoned has had a detrimental impact on decision making.

No surprises – FAIL

Earlier this year the Mayor made another slight error in judgement … when it was uncovered that there was a $12 million dollar “black hole”… for real, not like the Steven Joyce one – he knew about it, and was in talks with Briggs about it but didn’t tell Councillors immediately – so it was sprung on them at a meeting – rather unfairly.  Upon asking him he said he did tell them as fast as possible, but there was about a week, and I think a heads up slightly earlier in that week would have been a better way of handling it and could have changed the outcome of the meeting at the time by giving Councillors time to get their head around what was happening.   He did say on reflection he could have handled it better – so I guess that’s something – he was only a few months into the role.

Accountability – FAIL (kind of)

Finally – accountability.  He refused to place accountability on whoever it was within staff for this deficit.  It should have been Briggs I reckon, but King didn’t throw him under the bus over it – if anything the Councillors were thrown under for approving the report.  Accountability is a huge issue in politics, and seems to be a systemic issue rather than a personality one.  Do we blame staff/CEO Briggs or Councillors?

When I spoke to him on Tuesday – reflecting on the past year he has done what he said he was going to do, reduce red tape – with a transparent council (no closed door meetings) and working together.

So, a year in – He is doing well, much better than I expected.  I talk to him on the third Tuesday of every month at 8.10am, you can listen in live on FreeFM89.0.  I’ll continue to ask about the things that need challenged, and will continue to share with Hamilton his progress as Mayor in the hope we can all be a bit more informed heading into the next election.

Score 3.8 / 5

Help get rid of Bob Simcock

Nigel Murray, the CEO of the Waikato District Health Board was on a salary package of about $570,000 and still felt the need to rip off the system.  After two months of chilling at home while his expenses and claims were investigated he finally resigned.  He is only required to pay back $50,000.  I’d argue the amount of tax-payer money he spent and the cost of this drawn out process was a lot more.  But, with him out of the picture; should any more heads roll?

I’ll answer that for you.  Yes.  The Government appointed Chair of the Waikato district health board – Bob Simcock.

Tom Lee/Stuff Waikato DHB’s virtual health app costing millions

Join me by signing the Taxpayers Union petition here.

While some of his board have reserved comment until the results of the investigation are completed – we already know enough.  Bob Simcock was responsible for hiring Nigel Murray.  He was also responsible for ensuring Murray filed expenses each year – and he failed to do that for three years.  If medical staff have expressed that they don’t have any faith in his performance as Chair – if Board members are now questioning it – he’s got to go.  We deserve better.

Let’s not forget that Simcock was Mayor of Hamilton during the V8’s and at that time was criticised in a PWC report for not being forthcoming with financial information to Councillors.  He has shown a pattern of arrogance and a disregard for rate payer and tax payer money by not providing accountability.  Help speed up his retirement by signing the Taxpayers Union petition.

“We hereby express ‘No Confidence’ in Waikato DHB Chair Bob Simcock and call on him to tender his resignation for being responsible for the matters which led to Nigel Murray’s departure as CEO.”  Taxpayers Union.


Video killed the radio star

This weekend Hamilton played host to the annual Association of Community Access Broadcasters (ACAB) conference.  Industry experts and partners, radio hosts (“content creators” in the access radio sphere), staff and funders came from around New Zealand and in the case of the keynote speaker, across the ditch, to attend.  One of the drawcards to the conference was to have a glimpse at what Radio Futurologist (yes there is such a thing) James Cridland has to say about trends and the future of the humble radio.

You would be forgiven for thinking that radio is a dying industry, and while any industry usually looks to positives rather than negatives to feel better about themselves; the pulse of broadcast radio is statistically still looking strong.  You would be forgiven for thinking that less people tune into the radio, and considerably less younger people… but stats say otherwise.  Younger people just tune in differently.  The radio industry has proven it is an adaptive one and has kept up with technological developments.  Speaker James Cridland shared images of the history of radio including this fabulous image for Phillips Autoradio.  One of the earlier significant technological advances was to put a radio in a car… and if you think about when you most listen to live radio even today… you can see how underestimated that humble development has been for the industry.


Insights into how our national broadcaster Radio NZ have navigated technological changes in the last few years were shared by Carol Hirschfeld who is now Head of News at Radio NZ.  Radio NZ is now multi-platform – and includes the daily visual news “Checkpoint” being shared across social media, bringing listeners back to the traditional station.   To further explain developments in “the visual layer of radio”; Hamilton social enterprise “the Volume Collective” shared their story, which involves a shoe string budget to provide a platform for emerging artists to share their creative work.  They also showed how effective a phone can be to add another dynamic to shareable content.  The story of Wairarapa TV  was inspiring to show just how automated things can be by sharing content across multiple platforms, at little or no cost – all at the press of a button.

Photo courtesy of FreeFM89

Speakers gave us the proof we wanted that public broadcasting can adapt and continue to provide quality; diverse and dynamic content under resource constraint.  This constraint is from an industry budget freeze for the last 10 years.  Chief Executive of NZ on Air Jane Wrightson tells us there is no way of knowing what the future will hold.  Recently community driven “Action Station” put public broadcasting onto the political agenda with a campaign to end the freeze on Radio NZ funding.  They presented a 32000 strong petition to the Minister for Broadcasting and during the elections published a reportcard with National and Labour being unable to commit to an unfreeze (all minor parties could).  It will depend on political will as to whether we will see more funding.

Regardless, success (however that is measured) will come down to the community access radio sector, rallying together to come up with new ways of delivery to improve listenership and engagement.  Social media is a big part of that.

The future of radio is personalised (algorithm based), it’s on-demand and it’s multi-platform.  The challenge is to get that content to it’s audience in a crowded online market.  The strength of community access radio is it’s relevance to you and me.  It’s our stories; told with our voices; it’s the niche, the fringe, the regional and the minority voices and interests.  Viva la radio.

Read more: Max Christoffersen; Stormy reminder of radio’s place in our lives.